International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Simona Sharoni, Julia Welland, Linda Steiner and Jennifer Pedersen
Chapter 19: In the rain and in the sun: women’s peace activism in Liberia
This chapter addresses how a women-only peace movement in Liberia both embraced and manipulated stereotypes of ‘peaceful’ women in order to gain public support and play a role in the 2003 peace process. Led by Leymah Gbowee, who became a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2011, the Women in Peacebuilding Network of Liberia mobilized thousands of women from all walks of life for peace. This was largely a grassroots movement that both challenged the absence of women from decision-making processes, and made a concerted effort to unite ‘women’ under one banner in order to overcome entrenched class, religious and ethnic differences that were so prominent in the Liberian conflict. The chapter shows how women in the Liberian movement used culturally-specific gendered tactics of protest, such as sex strikes, public stripping and women-only fasting, to gain support for their movement. As in many other cases of women’s peace activism during conflict, the movement had to redefine itself in the post-conflict period in order to continue to push for women’s participation in formal decision-making processes.
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