The First Step To Development is Peace
In our international development course at ISS we often debate the merits of different development theories. Is a market based economy the best way to develop a nation or do we just give money to the poor? Though we cannot always agree on the best way forward, everyone in our class would agree that ending civil conflict through peaceful means is necessary to development. For this reason, it is important that people understand the work of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee.
While civil war raged in her native country of Liberia, Leymah Gbowee used peaceful and innovative methods to organize women in a unified voice for peace. Trained as a social worker, Mrs. Gbowee worked first on the reconciliation and rehabilitation of child soldiers. Her work knew no cultural barriers as she risked her life working in mosques and churches with women from other cultural backgrounds to promote peace and equality in Liberia. Mrs. Gbowee even helped women organize a sex-strike which ultimately brought positive media attention to the peace building efforts of Liberian women.
Lead by Leymah Gbowee, the women’s peace initiative in Liberia was the beginning of the end of the Liberian Civil War. Their success ultimately lead to the end of civil war, free and fair elections in 2005 and the first female head of state in African history; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
After finishing graduate school I will continue a career in international development. Most likely, I will continue to partake in lively debates on the most effective methods to development. Whether that is a market economy or debt reduction is up for debate. But, one thing is certain, peace is needed for any successful development initiative and the example set by Leymah Gbowee should be an example to us on how peace can be achieved.