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Liberian Nobel Laureate Talks About Giving Back

Liberian Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee in New York, October 7, 2011.
Liberian Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee in New York, October 7, 2011.
James Butty
Liberian Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee said she wants to use her Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa to provide educational and leadership opportunities for Liberian and other West African women.

Gbowee, a social worker, won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Gbowee explained why her foundation, established earlier this year, is focusing on education and youth and women empowerment.

“We have found out, and through my own experience, that in most of our communities there are a lot of young people with potential to be great leaders in the future. What is lacking is the opportunity for them to move forward. So, our goal at the foundation is to make an effort to find those who find themselves in challenging situation but are trying to make it,” she said.

Gbowee said her foundation is also focusing on building leadership skills among young people to bridge what she calls “a leadership gap” in Africa.

“In Africa, we have a little problem when it comes to [finding] leaders that are accountable to their people and responsible for their actions,” said Gbowee.  “And, working with these young people, we’re hoping that we can get to a place where we’re able to at least have a new generation of transformative leaders in Africa - people who will think about providing for their communities and not for themselves.”

She said the foundation focuses on increasing educational opportunities for girls and women by offering full scholarships to selected individuals.

Butty interview with Gbowee
Butty interview with Gboweei
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“What we do is that we seek opportunities with institutions using my work experience and the platform to give us scholarships, and we provide scholarships, currently for young Liberians to go to school in different parts of the world,” Gbowee said.

Gbowee was head of the national Peace and Reconciliation Commission established by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2011. But she resigned in October 2012 citing insufficient progress by government in promoting reconciliation.

She said her foundation will organize in 2013 what she called Peace Through Fair Play, “an overnight camp for youths aged 10 to 19 years old to engage each other through sports and workshops on reconciliation, family planning, and education.”

While she said she loves politics, Gbowee said she has no immediate desire to run for political office in Liberia.

“Let me say one thing, my life has always been one of giving back. I tell people I’m a Liberian and I have the right to decide if I want to go into politics. But one of the things that I can say to you, very clearly, you will not see my name on any ballot paper any time soon,” Gbowee said.

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