Monrovia — The Women Deliver (WD) Organization, which advocates for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and advances gender equity, has invited Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa (GPFA) to serve as a speaker at their Conference in Kigali, Rwanda.
The WD Conference, scheduled to take place from July 17-20, 2023, under the theme “Spaces, Solidarity, and Solutions,” is expected to convene 6,000 people in Kigali and attract over 200,000 participants online through the virtual platform. It is one of the largest multi-sectorial gatherings aimed at advancing gender equality, bringing together representatives from multilateral governments, the private sector, philanthropies, and youth, including individuals from communities facing systemic discrimination.
In an exclusive interview at her GPFA office in Margibi County, Leymah Gbowee expressed her intention to highlight the involvement of women in peacebuilding and the empowerment of young women in leadership roles during her speech. She plans to be accompanied by five young women as an eye-opener to the conference.
When asked about Liberia’s progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in the areas of gender equality and peacebuilding, Gbowee clarified that her work is outside the influence and interactions of the Liberian government. However, she acknowledged the active engagement of women at the grassroots level in peacebuilding activities within the country. Through the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, various initiatives have been undertaken to assist women in seeking justice for those affected in their communities.
Gbowee mentioned the “peaceful Tuesdays” initiative led by women and young people ahead of the upcoming elections. Inspired by Liberia’s history of peaceful elections, these women aim to ensure peaceful elections and actively engage in promoting a feminist perspective on peace in Liberia. While she emphasized the importance of interaction between the government and civil society, Gbowee expressed her desire to evaluate the achievements of both sectors in order to further advance the agenda of women.
Regarding her presentation at the WD Conference, Gbowee stated that she would discuss her work and its impact on people living in Liberia. She highlighted the recently launched project, the feminist policy lab, funded by the feminist organization Madre. Over the past nine months, the feminist policy lab has trained young women in research, data collection, and documentation to facilitate policy development. The lab’s research has covered various issues impacting women, such as the detention of new mothers in hospitals, prison reforms, and the lack of reform regarding female inmates and sexual harassment in schools. Gbowee believes that these topics will be of interest to the participants of the Women Deliver conference.
Additionally, Gbowee emphasized her foundation’s efforts to support girls’ education and empower young people, which have had a positive impact on education and leadership among women. She highlighted the persisting issue of Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) worldwide, stating that a holistic approach is required to tackle it effectively. Gbowee discussed the recommendation put forth by the young women in the feminist policy lab, suggesting the establishment of gender desks at universities as a means to mitigate SGBV issues. She expressed interest in learning about best practices and groundbreaking initiatives in this regard during the Women Deliver Conference.
When asked about the conference’s impact on Liberia, Gbowee clarified that she does not speak on behalf of the government but as a representative of her work. She acknowledged the potential benefits of shared experiences and learning from other countries, especially in terms of securing funding for their work. The presence of world leaders, policymakers, and donors at the Women Deliver conference provides an opportunity to showcase their efforts and attract funding. Gbowee expressed her anticipation of sharing the initiatives of the GPFA and exploring potential scholarships for students, thereby emphasizing the opportunities for Liberia’s civil society.
Finally, Gbowee mentioned that she and her classmate, Takwakol Karim (another Nobel laureate from the Nobel Prize 2001), will lead all activities of the Nobel Women Initiatives at the Women Deliver Conference. The event will also feature the attendance of Liberia’s former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other laureates.