Leymah Gbowee

  • Liberia
  • Children's Rights, Human Rights
  • Nobel Peace Prize

Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian social worker, peace activist, and advocate for women’s rights. In 2011, Gbowee along with her associate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Yemen’s Tawakkul Karman, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Born in 1972 in central Liberia, Leymah’s young life was interrupted by the outbreak of the First Liberian Civil War. “All of a sudden one July morning I wake up at 17, going to the university to fulfill my dream of becoming a medical doctor, and fighting erupted,” said Gbowee. Experiencing and bearing witness to the brutal effects of the war on the Liberian people led Leymah to train and work as a trauma counselor for former child soldiers. 

Gbowee is best known for her role in helping bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003 by leading a non-violent movement that brought Christian and Muslim women together to demand peace talks between warring factions. As part of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement, women dressed in white T-shirts and held daily demonstrations for months in Monrovia until a successful peace agreement was reached. The women’s movement also served as a catalyst resulting in the election of Africa’s first female of state, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, one of Gbowee’s collaborators. After the end of the civil war, Leymah would eventually go on to become the founder and president of the Liberian-based Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, which focuses on providing opportunities for girls and women in education and leadership sectors in Liberia and throughout western Africa. She is also a founding member and former coordinator of the Women in Peacebuilding Program/West African Network for Peacebuilding and has served as a commissioner-designated for the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as, sitting on the board of several other peace organizations.

Working tirelessly, the mother of six children, has completed her doctorate and received honorary degrees from several universities around the world. Additionally, Gbowee has been a contributor to the Daily Beast, the subject of an award-winning documentary film, and was even honored as a flag-bearer for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. As her star has continued to rise, Leymah has asserted that women and mothers remain at the forefront of peace efforts. In an interview for the International Women’s Day, the Nobel Laureate stated, “The Liberian women peace movement demonstrated to the world that grassroots movements are essential to sustaining peace; that women in leadership positions are effective brokers for peace; and the importance of culturally relevant social justice movements. Liberia’s experience is a good example to the world that women—especially African women—can be drivers of peace.”


  • Population
  • Capital
  • GDP (PPP)
  • January 7, 1822
  • Total Area
    111,369 km2 (103rd)
  • Demonym
  • Government
    Unitary presidential republic


Masks among the Liberian people are often used to represent a connection between the living and the spirit world. Leymah Gbowee’s unwavering conviction and determined spirit are undeniably linked to her compassion for the Liberian people and her efforts for peace.

  • Illustration by
    Hanjoon Kim