|Image Credit: aktivioslo|
Organisations like the UN do a lot of good, but there are certain basic realities they never seem to grasp …Maybe the most important truth that eludes these organisations is that it's insulting when outsiders come in and tell a traumatised people what it will take for them to heal. You cannot go to another country and make a plan for it. The cultural context is so different from what you know that you will not understand much of what you see. I would never come to the US and claim to understand much of what you see. I would never come to the US and claim to understand what's going on, even in the African American culture. People who have lived through a terrible conflict may be hungry and desperate, but they are not stupid. They often have very good ideas about how peace can evolve, and they need to be asked. That includes women. Most especially women … To outsiders like the UN, these soldiers were a problem to be managed. But they were our children." -- Leymah Gbowee, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War
Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee is truly a force to be reckon with. She is credited with leading a peaceful campaign by mobilizing women from across Liberia of various religious and ethnic backgrounds to bring an end to Liberia's fourteen year civil war and ex-President Charles Taylor's rule.
I found this article from two years ago in Inter Press Service that had this to say about the situation of young women in Liberia:
Despite the 2005 election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first female president, and the introduction of free and compulsory primary education, many young girls in this post-conflict West African nation continue to drop out of school to cook and clean for their family, or earn a meagre living selling food or fresh water on the streets. They face discrimination, sexual violence, family pressures, early pregnancy, forced marriage, and harmful traditional practices. Three out of five Liberian women can't read.If you get a chance, do take a minute to check out the full article. In my opinion, it plays down the reality of how foreign aid strangles the ability of developing countries to manifest their destiny and gives credit to the UN. I also think that the quote that I led this post off with by Gbowee offers a brilliant response to an article such as this.
Today, while deciding what to write for Her Blueprint, I discovered this compelling talk by Gbowee that I want to share with you.
Here's an excerpt:
Several years ago, there was one African girl. This girl had a son who wished for a piece of doughnut because he was extremely hungry. Angry, frustrated, really upset about the state of her society and the state of her children, this young girl started a movement, a movement of ordinary women banding together to build peace. I will fulfill this wish. This is another African girl's wish. I failed to fulfill the wish of those two girls. I failed to do this. These were the things that were going through the head of this other younger woman - I failed, I failed, I failed. So I will do this. Women came out, protested a brutal dictator, fearlessly spoke. Not only did the wish of a piece of doughnut come true, the wish of peace came true. This young woman wished also to go to school. She went to school. This young woman wished for other things to happen, it happened for her.
Today, this young woman is me, a Nobel laureate. I'm now on a journey to fulfill the wish, in my tiny capacity, of little African girls - the wish of being educated.
You can visit Gbowee's website to learn more about her book and documentary, which explores more of her amazing journey.