A CLASSIC STORY OF THE WOMAN “WE CAN DO IT SPIRIT”-PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL

It has been proven that women at the basic level co-operate more than compete. Kuhn &Villeval :2013.Most women do not play politics. when the chips are down, they can achieve just about anything!

I had walked into my boss’s living room that afternoon (a few weeks after the Dogon Nahuwa tragedy in Jos Plateau Nigeria where more than 1000 individuals were slaughtered in one night- march 7th 2010) when I saw a lot of women opinion leaders shedding tears,I need not ask why,as no one would answer me , all eyes were fixed on the TV. I merely settled down on a sofa to watch this documentary that had got everyone spell bound.

Background

“Liberia, a West African country of 3 million people, was founded in 1847 by freed American slaves.Their descendants formed an elite class which dominated indigenous ethnic groups for more than a century. Rising tensions finally erupted into civil war in 1989.From then on, Liberians suffered a prolonged period of violence. At times, fighting was concentrated in the countryside. Other times, the conflict raged through the capital, Monrovia.By 2002, over 200,000 people had died. One out of three people had been displaced.

ABSTRACT

This documentary archives social unrest in the West African Republic of Liberia, where civil war has torn the nation apart and left hundreds of thousands dead or displaced. The film reconstructs the way this tragedy galvanized a coalition of Christian and Muslim women to rise up and, through nonviolent tactics, put pressure on their government to pursue peace talks and finally led to a democratic election and Liberia’s first female president.

THE DOCUMENTARY

Leymah Gbowee, a social worker and the founder of the peace movement recounted the different explanations given for the fighting — “power, money, ethnicity, and greed.”It was a dream of speaking against the war in front of her church that moved Gbowee from frustration and despair to activism.

Gbowee rallied her church around and reached out to other Christian churches. A Muslim woman heard her speak in front of the church and promised to mobilize the Muslim community. Charles Taylor’s government and the rebel forces, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), were divided along Christian and Muslim affiliations respectively, but the women bridged the divide and coordinated their efforts to reach out to the religious leadership. Gbowee said, “If the women started pressurizing the pastors and the bishops, the pastors and bishops could start pressurizing the [governmental] leaders. And if the women in the mosque started pressurizing the imams, they would pressurize the warlords also.”

WOMEN PROTESTINGIN THE FISH MARKET

Image taken from Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Together, the women started to demonstrate at a local fish market. Gbowee said, “It was the first time in the history of Liberia that Muslim women and Christian women came together.” The number of demonstrators grew into the thousands, united under a banner that said “The women of Liberia want peace now.” Singing and dancing, dressed in white and with their hair covered by scarves, the women sat through threats emanating from the president, adverse weather, heat, hunger, and desperation before they came up with their next idea: a sex strike.

Vaiba Flomo, President of the Christian Women’s Peace Initiative, explained the impetus behind the sex strike. “We said to the women, ‘One way or another, you have a power as a woman, and that power is to deny the man sex. And tell him the reason you’re going to deny him.

Asata Bah Kenneth, the woman who brought the peace movement to the Muslim community, shared the sense of camaraderie and support to the christian women

FORMER LIBERIANPRESIDENT CHARLES TAYLOR.PIC CREDIT” PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL”

The women’s movement issued a statement avoiding any political demands and calling only for peace. They signed their statement as “The Women of Liberia” and marched on the capital to present it to the Parliament. Finally, Charles Taylor acquiesced to a meeting. Gbowee read aloud a statement in front of the president and an assembled crowd, still dressed only in white and with her head wrapped in a white scarf: “The women of Liberia, including the IDPs, we are tired of war. We are tired of running. We are tired of begging for bulghur wheat. We are tired of our children being raped. We are now taking this stand to secure the future of our children because we believe, as custodians of society, tomorrow our children will ask us, ‘Mama, what was your role during the crisis?’” Charles Taylor saw that popular support was on the women’s side, and he agreed to take part in peace talks.

During the same time, the women’s movement sent a delegation of women to Sierra Leone, where the rebels were rumored to be meeting. By meeting with them one-on-one and engaging in dialogue with the leaders, the women convinced the rebel leaders to take part in peace talks as well.

The peace talks did not go smoothly. They broke down several times, and agreements dragged on while former warlords argued over which posts they wanted in the new transitional government. Former Nigerian President and Chief Moderator General Abubakar said, “We were getting nowhere, and we were really reaching the end of the road. What can we do to get these people to sign this peace agreement? They are still jockeying for more and more.” When attacks reached the American Embassy, where many displaced Liberians had been seeking refuge, Gbowee had had enough. She and the rest of the women who had been demonstrating outside the peace talks locked arms and started a siege of the conference hall. The chief moderator supported the women’s siege, demanding that the warlords meet the women’s demands that a resolution be reached within two weeks. Finally, the warlords signed a peace agreement.

In the period after the signing of the peace agreement, the women’s peace movement continued to play an integral role in Liberian reconstruction and the disarmament of the rebel forces. They also succeeded in electing the country’s first female president-sirleaf Ellen Johnson.

Conclusion

The most striking thing about this documentary is how applicable it is to us in Nigeria at this time.The women’s peace movement in Liberia was successful neither because they were connected nor because they were women of means. But because of nationalistic attributes of unity, resolve, and strength of purpose in their hearts,they prevailed.Need I say more?#notanothernigerian@neieffellows

REFERENCES

  1. KUHN &VILLEVAL 2013:WOMEN COPORATE MORE THAN COMPETE.
  2. PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL 2008.
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