Liberia’s second civil war, 1999-2003, brought an unimaginable level of violence to a country still recovering from its first civil war (1989-96). And much of that violence was directed at women: Systematic rape and brutality used women’s bodies as fields for war.
Leymah Gbowee, who’d become a social worker during the first war, helped organize an interreligious coalition of Christian and Muslim women called the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement. Dressed in white, these thousands of women staged pray-ins and nonviolent protests demanding reconciliation and the resuscitation of high-level peace talks. The pressure pushed Charles Taylor into exile, and smoothed the path for the election of Africa’s first female head of state, Leymah’s fellow 2011 Nobel Peace laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.