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Deborah Mazon – WNN Breaking
(WNN) Flanders, BELGIUM, EUROPE: Outlining what she calls “a serious gap” in conditions under leadership in Liberia, Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee is sharing her convictions that women must occupy key roles inside her home country of Liberia as she gets ready for an upcoming symposium at Leuven University in Flanders, Belgium. During the symposium, Gbowee will be focused on bringing education for young women in Liberia to the front and center as part of an international promise brought to action through Leuven University.
On February 21, 2013 the University will be bringing direct action to the Leymah Gbowee Scholarship Fund for Leadership for African Women during the symposium.
“We want to offer scholarships for motivated and talented young women to obtain Bachelor’s degrees in their home region, followed by a Master’s here at KU Leuven (Leuven University). The aim is to first provide a broad education and then to train young women for positions of leadership in various domains, via a number of select programmes,” says Professor Martin Euwema, head of Occupational & Organisational Psychology and Professional Learning at Leuven University.
Professor Euwema is also one of the planing partners who helped create the Luevan University Fund to bring opportunity, empowerment and leadership to young women who live in the conflict-plagued regions of West Africa, including Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and Liberia.
“Our hope is that they will bring about a transformation in their local communities and be sources of inspiration for other young women,” continued Professor Euwema.
Leymah Gbowee’s work as a peace activist in 2003 during the end of the 14 year Liberian civil war played a pivotal role in getting both Christian and Muslim women to work together to march and influence male society in the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. The non-violent activism, depicted in Gbowee’s book “Mighty Be Our Powers” and the documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell, helped put a permanent stop to the violence of Liberia’s civil war.
In addition to numerous awards and recognitions, Gbowee is also on the board of the PEACEJAM Foundation helping with programs that bring education, empowerment and inspiration to youth worldwide through mentoring under 13 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, including Gbowee, Jody Williams, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. To date the PEACEJAM has reached over 600 thousand youth in the U.S. and around the world.
“In times of war, women show how strong they are time and again, even though they are often war’s main victims. But when it comes to leadership, we have a serious gap in Liberia. Women must have an institutional voice and must occupy key roles. And not just to keep the peace and bring about reconciliation,” said Gbowee from Belgium before the symposium date.
In 2011, Gbowee received a joint Nobel Peace Prize with fellow Liberian, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Yemeni Peace activist, Tawakkul Karman, for what the Norwegian Nobel Committee called an honor “for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”
The new fund spearheaded by Gbowee will enable young women in Liberia to pay for and finish college at the Bachelor’s Degree level. It will also offer funding for outstanding women to receive a Master’s Degree through Leuven University.
“In time, we will also seek to involve other universities in the KU Leuven network. But our primary task at the moment is seeking sponsors. 5,000 euros finances an entire Bachelor’s degree; 10,000 euros a Master’s. Two emeriti from our faculty have donated their remaining research budgets to the fund. A number of companies and [the] Rotary are already sponsors. I believe very much in this sustainable way of investing. For me it is a privilege to be able to contribute to this programme. It embodies a key task of the university and its professors,” added Professor Euwema.
The candidates for the programme will be carefully selected by The Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa.
“I recently met three young women of about eighteen in a village not far from Monrovia (the capital of Liberia – ed.). They are in 4th, 5th and 10th grade, respectively, because they have been repeatedly forced by circumstance to leave school. But they don’t give up. It’s girls like these we want to offer scholarships.”
Seeing women as integral to moving society forward Gbowee is a strong spokeswoman for the cause of Africa’s women, especially the women of Liberia.
“We need women to play a role in every area of society. You can’t eat peace,” outlines Gbowee.
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