Liberia : Laureate Leymah Gbowee to address NAFSA 2012 Annual Conference in Houston

By Peterking Quaye – Two leaders whose efforts in peace-building and conflict resolution have had an extraordinary impact on the international community will speak at the annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators in May.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee

Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, with share the stage with Ambassador Jan Eliasson, distinguished diplomat, humanitarian, and former president of the United Nations General Assembly, to address 8,000 attendees from more than 120 countries at the NAFSA conference, which comes off in May 2012 in Houston.

The conference is the world’s largest gathering of professionals in international education. Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee is one of three outstanding women leaders who were awarded the 2011 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.” During Liberia’s second civil war, Gbowee worked tirelessly across religious and ethnic lines to organize a peace movement of thousands of women who held nonviolent demonstrations in Monrovia.

This movement became known as the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, with Gbowee as the chief spokeswoman and leader. Its efforts are documented in her memoir, “Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War,” and in the award-winning 2008 film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.

The movement continued to wage influence in Ghana during the peace-talk process and was a driving force behind the 2005 election as Liberian president of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – the first elected woman leader of an African country and a co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Gbowee is founder and president of the recently established Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, which aims to help women and girls become leaders in building and sustaining peace and security. She is also head of the Liberia Reconciliation Initiative, executive director of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, and a founding member and former coordinator of the Women in Peacebuilding Program/West African Network for Peacebuilding. She is the Newsweek Daily Beast’s Africa columnist and a member of the African Women Leaders Network for Reproductive Health and Family Planning. Gbowee will address NAFSA conference attendees on Wednesday, May 30, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

Meanwhile veteran diplomat and human rights advocate, Ambassador Jan Eliasson is chairman of WaterAid Sweden, the Swedish arm of an international nonprofit organization dedicated to improving access to safe water, hygiene, and sanitation for people in the world’s poorest communities. He is also a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group, which is charged with galvanizing support for the achievement of the eight goals world leaders agreed to meet by 2015 in an effort to end global poverty. In the course of his distinguished career, Eliasson has served in some of the highest levels of the United Nations.

From 1988 to 1992 he was Sweden’s ambassador to the United Nations, where he was part of the UN mediation missions in the war between Iran and Iraq. In 1992, he became the first UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, leading efforts on landmines, conflict prevention, and other humanitarian actions in Somalia, Sudan, Mozambique and the Balkans. Eliasson was Sweden’s state secretary for foreign affairs from 1994 to 2000 and the Swedish ambassador to the United States from 2000 to 2005. From 2005 to 2006, he served as president of the UN General Assembly. Eliasson’s distinguished career as a Swedish diplomat culminated in his service as minister for foreign affairs, during which he played a key role in the evacuation of more than 8,000 Swedish citizens from Lebanon in 2006. From 2007 to 2008, Eliasson was the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for Darfur.

He will address NAFSA conference attendees on Friday, June 1, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

Peterking Quaye, Monrovia (