Handbook on Gender and War
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Handbook on Gender and War

Edited by Simona Sharoni, Julia Welland, Linda Steiner and Jennifer Pedersen

Gender and war are in many ways inextricably linked, and this path-breaking Handbook systematically examines the major issues surrounding this relationship. Each of its four sections covers a distinct phase of war: gender and opposition to war; gender and the conduct of war; gender and the impact of war; and gender and the aftermath of war. Original contributions from an international group of leading experts make use of a range of historical and contemporary examples to interrogate the multi-faceted connection between gender and war.
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Chapter 19: In the rain and in the sun: women’s peace activism in Liberia

Jennifer Pedersen


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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