Celebrating Leymah Gbowee and EJS -On the 10th anniversary of winning the Nobel Peace Prize

When former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee became Nobel Laureates in 2011, their garnering of one of the globe’s most prestigious accolades once again placed the role of Liberian women in activism and peace-building on the front burner. After decades of struggling to ascend to her country’s highest office, Madam Sirleaf broke world record when she became Africa’s first female president in 2005. Madam Gbowee also stunned the world when she led the women of Liberia into peace gatherings in Liberia and Ghana, which culminated to the signing of the August 2003 Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord that ended the country’s 14 years of civil carnage. In recognition of their sterling performances in promoting women’s rights in Liberia and Africa, the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) has decided to honor the two trailblazing feminist activists, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, with the AWDF Milestone Award Grants, on the 10th anniversary of jointly winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

According to the AWDF, the grants, amounting to US$100,000 each, will go to their respective organizations to support the work they are doing to advance African women and girls’ participation in conflict resolution, public service leadership and governance.

President Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee were jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize together with Yemenite pro-democracy activist Tawakkol Karman in 2011 “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” The two African women both played a critical role in securing sustainable peace in their country Liberia which was emerging from a brutal civil war, and they continue to work towards protecting human rights and promoting peace.

The AWDF Milestone Grant is a recognition of their remarkable achievement of being the only other African women to win the Nobel Peace Prize, after Wangari Maathai, who won the prize in 2004. Wangari Maathai passed away in 2011, making President Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee the only living African women Nobel Peace Laureates.

“Women’s leadership and participation in governance is central in contributing to equality and to positive transformation, and the two recipients of the Milestone Grants have shown leadership for decades in the instrumental roles they played in their country’s quest for peace. The AWDF Milestone Grant is a way to honour and document the experiences and contributions of African women who have committed their lives to the women’s movement and to democratic values and struggles in their countries. It also serves to uplift African women through philanthropy rooted in sisterhood,” the AWDF noted in a press statement.

The AWDF further noted that by awarding these grants, it is sending a signal not only to these phenomenal women, “but to all African women of our commitment to changing the narrative around African women, and highlighting African women’s agency, expertise, leadership and ability to transform societies towards justice”.

For her part, the CEO of AWDF, Françoise Moudouthe, said she is “inspired by these two outstanding and fierce activists, and AWDF is excited and privileged to support their work ”.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is an economist and was president of Liberia between 2006 and 2018, the first woman to be elected head of state of an African country. She is also the founder of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Centre for Women and Development, an organization that aims to amplify the voices of women and girls in all spheres of life by increasing their representation in public service leadership roles in Africa. The centre works to champion women’s ascension to the highest levels of leadership and challenge systemic barriers to girls’ and women’s advancement.

Leymah Gbowee is a peace activist responsible for leading a women’s nonviolent peace movement, Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace that helped bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. Leymah is founder of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, established to improve access to quality education for women and youth in Liberia.

“AWDF has shown true leadership in advancing women’s rights in Africa and this grant is a further demonstration of their commitment to the cause,” remarked President Sirleaf on accepting the offer of the grant.

Leymah Gbowee also expressed her appreciation to AWDF, noting that “this grant will ensure that girls and women will continue to benefit from education and leadership empowerment opportunities”.

Established in 2000, the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) is a feminist grant making foundation that supports local, national and Africa regional women’s organizations working towards the promotion and realization of women’s rights and recognition of African women’s leadership in all spheres of life. As Africa’s first women’s fund, AWDF plays a pioneering role in of both feminist movement-building and philanthropy on the continent.

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