The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for Non-Fiction has been awarded to three extraordinary women: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, current president of Liberia and author of This Child Will Be Great, Leymah Gbowee, author of Mighty Be Our Powers, and Yemen's Tawakkul Karman for their work in advancing women's rights and the role of women in peacebuilding efforts.
Leymah Gbowee has been recognized for her efforts in organizing non-violent peacemaking campaigns during Liberia's horrific civil war. The Indigo Non-Fiction Blog and Huffington Post Canada are pleased to present this excerpt from Leymah Gbowee's Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War.
Mighty Be Our Powers
Modern war stories often resemble each other, not because the circumstances are alike but because they're told in the same way. Commanders are quoted offering confident predictions of victory. Male diplomats make serious pronouncements. And the fighters -- always men, whether they are government soldiers or rebels, whether they are portrayed as heroes or thugs -- brag, threaten, brandish grisly trophies and shoot off their mouths and their weapons.
It was that way in my country, Liberia. During the years that civil war tore us apart, foreign reporters often came to document the nightmare. Read the accounts. Watch the video clips. They are all about the power of destruction. Bare-chested boys on foot or in pickup trucks fire enormous machine guns, dance crazily in wrecked city streets or crowd around a corpse, holding up a victim's bleeding heart. A young man in sunglasses and red beret regards the camera coolly. "We kill you, we will eat you."
Now watch the reports again, but look more carefully, at the background, for that is where you will find the women. You'll see us fleeing, weeping, kneeling before our children's graves. In the traditional telling of war stories, women are always in the background. Our suffering is just a sidebar to the main tale; when we're included, it's for "human interest." If we are African, we are even more likely to be marginalized and painted solely as pathetic -- hopeless expressions, torn clothes, sagging breasts. Victims. That is the image of us that the world is used to, and the image that sells.
Once, a foreign journalist asked me, "Were you raped during the Liberian war?"
When I said no, I was no longer of any interest.
During the war in Liberia, almost no one reported the other reality of women's lives. How we hid our husbands and sons from soldiers looking to recruit or kill them. How, in the midst of chaos, we walked miles to find food and water for our families -- how we kept life going so that there would be something left to build on when peace returned. And how we created strength in sisterhood, and spoke out for peace on behalf of all Liberians.
This is not a traditional war story. It is about an army of women in white standing up when no one else would -- unafraid, because the worst things imaginable had already happened to us. It is about how we found the moral clarity, persistence and bravery to raise our voices against war and restore sanity to our land.
You have not heard it before, because it is an African woman's story, and our stories rarely are told.
I want you to hear mine.
Excerpted from Mighty Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee. Excerpted by permission of Beast Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Read more about Leymah at http://www.leymahgbowee.com/index.html.
This post originally appeared on the Indigo Blog.