Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mighty Be Our Powers

“When you move so quickly from innocence to a world of fear, pain and loss, it's as if the flesh of your heart and mind gets cut away, piece by piece, like slices taken off a ham. Finally, there is nothing left but bone.” 
― Leymah Gbowee, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War

Mighty Be Our Powers was, arguably, the most powerful book I read this past winter break. As part of the GlobeMed book club, I ordered my copy--late--and hesitated through nine books or so before opening this one. I had just read Mountains Beyond Mountains and am, in all other respects, still quite wet behind the ears when it comes to global health and health inequities. So what would I make of Leymah Gbowee?

There is a serious reason she received the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Gbowee literally faced hell on earth when it comes to the civil war in Monrovia, but she came back with her own fire. Before the war breaks out, Gbowee celebrates her high school graduation, surrounded by friends, family, and gifts. Then, she has to watch her country get torn apart by rape, looting, murder, and beatings. But the incredible thing about Gbowee is her ability to channel her emotional distress into positive action, and ultimately, she helps to lead the Women In Peace Building Network (WIPNET) that brought together Christian and Muslim women to call for the end of war. At one point, Gbowee even drafts her own peace treaty and forces a general to review it. Peace abounds, especially because of all that the women of Liberia have done. For an individual up against such crippling structural violence, Leymah Gbowee proves to be quite the woman.

This is a story of empowerment, a story of a kind of inspiration that moves not only women, but families, fronts, and nations. It is an amazing tale of an amazing life, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to read her. I might not be sitting down in front of any warlords anytime soon, but Gbowee's mission is one that I have found myself in alignment with. And to think, she's coming to speak at Summit...

PS--In the memoir, Gbowee notes that she was featured in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. It tells the courageous efforts of a group of Liberian women to bring peace to Liberia. It is going on my bucket list of movies to watch!

--Elaine Hsiang

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