Women, War & Peace: Featuring Nobel Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee

6 years ago

Leymah Gbowee and the Liberian women's peace movement are featured in Women, War & Peace, a five-part PBS series that challenges the conventional wisdom that war and peace men's domain. Below, executive producer Abigail Disney describes her reaction to Leymah Gbowee's 2011 Nobel Peace Prize win.

I knew Leymah Gbowee, one of three women just awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, would be getting off the plane at 7am this morning. I knew she would miss the global announcement that came 2 hours before she landed. And I just knew she would win.

I sent her the message the fastest way possible -- text. It read “NOBEL! NOBEL! NOBEL!” and I packed her daughter and my two sons into the car as we made our way to the airport. Juggling kids and luggage and a ringing phone, we embraced and the day began.

I had the privilege of watching Leymah field questions and receive congratulations at this morning’s press conference. I am proud to know her. I am proud to have helped tell her story. I am proud to be her friend. And I am proud to be a fellow peacebuilder.

Five years ago, when I traveled to Liberia with Ambassador Swanee Hunt a few months after the inauguration of Africa’s first female Head-of-State, and now Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, I had no idea that my next role would be documenting and celebrating the lives of women building peace. But after hearing story after story of triumph and struggle, leadership and survival I knew there was something else below the surface of Liberia’s liberation that needed to be lifted up.  

Two years later, the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell was released about a group of brave and visionary women - in plain white tee-shirts - joining forces across region and religion to demand peace. Their leader, Leymah Gbowee, was intuitive and innovative. Her strategies brilliant, her tactics simple yet effective, and the message direct: the women of Liberia want peace.

Today is a remarkable day, celebrating remarkable women. Yemeni activist and journalist Tawakkul Karman is the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She was detained in Yemen earlier this year and has been quoted as saying the award is a victory for her country and for the entire Arab Spring. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was awarded her Nobel Peace Prize for leading a ravaged country forward.  Leymah won on behalf of all her sisters in the peace movements of West Africa.

There are Leymahs and Ellens and Tawakkuls all over the world. And hopefully their newfound recognition will shed light on how transformational women are in peace and democracy. As Nobel Prize Committee Chairman Thorbjoen Jagland told reporters, “we cannot achieve lasting peace in the world unless women receive the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.”

After Pray, I knew this was my calling: to tell the stories of women building peace – the invisible side of war. The result is Women, War & Peace, the most comprehensive global media initiative ever mounted on the roles of women in war and peace airing next week on PBS.  In making Women, War & Peace with co-creators Pamela Hogan and Gini Reticker, I have had the privilege to get to know some of these peacebuilders. 

From these women and through years of research, I’ve come to understand what it means to be a “peacebuilder”.  What connects them is a collective decision to build peace in their respective countries.  As individuals they are all remarkable, but as peacebuilders they are rooted in their sameness.

Peacebuilders are action-oriented, ‘do-ers’, makers, creators. Those who build peace look around and not only believe that we can move out of war and chaos, but make decisions to get us there. Peace is an active choice to live in community. 

I know that we can all play a role in the movement to build peace. We can all be peacebuilders – small, medium and large. We can watch and share the series. We can push-back on the aesthetic of violence and the ceaseless romanticization of combat that are the staples of our Hollywood industrial complex.  We can tell the stories of women leaders not as victims, but as peacebuilders.  It can be as simple an act as putting the Nobel Peace Prize link on your Facebook. We can choose to act. Learn more. Do more. We can choose to live in global community by building peace.  Today is an amazing day for women peacebuilders. Let it not be the last.

Abigail Disney, along with co-creators Pamela Hogan and Gini Reticker, executive produced Women, War & Peace, a five-part special series on PBS.  With narrators Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton, Geena Davis and Alfre Woodard,Women, War & Peace is the most comprehensive global media initiative ever mounted on the roles of women in war and peace. Watch on your local PBS station Tuesday nights from Oct. 11 to Nov. 8. Check local listings for air times.

View the Trailer Here: http://video.pbs.org/video/2074770753/

Watch the full episode. See more Women War and Peace.



  ~ Abigail Disney



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