By: Lindsey Crane
I recently finished reading Mighty Be Our Powers by Liberian activist and Nobel Laureate, Leymah Gbowee. As I was reading it, I was struck by several things. First, I think this novel should be considered required reading for any young woman. In fact, I plan on giving it to my niece when she’s old enough to handle and comprehend the atrocity of war. Leymah’s writing is brutally honest. She walks the reader through her struggles, much of it personal, during her country’s time of crisis and her relentless desire to bring an end to the conflict. The way that Leymah and other activists were able to make such an impact on their country was through the empowerment of women- including the act of refusing sex to force men from the various rebel factions to come together for peace talks- is inspiring for any woman to read. Leymah’s story is a very valuable lesson in perseverance. While her story is made more impactful nestled again the backdrop of a brutal conflict, what she stands for - her values and tireless work ethic- can easily be applied to other situations.
I was also struck by how personal this book was. I don’t know what I could or should have been expecting, but I suppose I was anticipating a memoir that focused more squarely on the Liberian Civil Wars. While the wars figure very prominently, the majority of the book centers around Leymah’s personal struggles during a time of international crisis – conflicts with alcohol, her ex-husband, and even conflicts with other female advocates. I am impressed by her bravery and honestly, and I think the inclusion of the details bring the book to a level of understanding that any woman can relate to. It was serves as an important reminder that when war happens, it is easy to forget the other complications and conflicts that happen in life.
Something else caught me as I read the book. I found myself imagining the terrible atrocities of the Liberian civil wars as I read Leymah’s detailed descriptions. It was difficult to read about such evil and horror, but I couldn’t help but think that war and humanitarian strife have become commonplace. As I write this post, there are no fewer than 30 active or potential conflicts across the world, and 10 of those are located in Africa (source: Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Conflict Tracker). Global conflicts, resulting in humanitarian crises, have become so prevalent, that I’m worried I’ve become desensitized to the issue. Yes, I was moved by Leymah’s brave writing, but I also was not shocked by anything she wrote. I found myself comparing the Liberian civil war to other African conflicts – the on-going destabilization of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the horrible Rwandan genocide. Conflict, it seems nowadays, is so ubiquitous – just another “fact” in our everyday lives.
Mighty Be Our Powers, shows how important it is for everyone to participate in the peace process. There is something for everyone to do – for those involved, and for those watching 3,000 miles away. It’s important to stay aware of conflicts and tensions happening abroad, and in our own communities. By being aware, we are becoming active participants in the peace process – awareness, I think, is the first step.