Saturday, October 31, 2009
That's the name of the movie we saw last night, a documentary about the Women's Peace Movement in Liberia, West Africa. Basically, a group of women became peace activists and demanded the dictator president go to peace accord meetings with rival war lords - and when those peace talks lingered for months, the women staged a sit in and demanded the men finalize the talks and move on. (The women also staged sex strikes, which got a LOT of men on their side.) The movie combines interviews, news footage of actual fighting, the army and the rebels and the war lords, and most scary, the child soldiers armed to the teeth. It was beautifully done, emotionally disturbing but also triumphant, and is definitely a movie to see and experience.
If you haven't seen the movie, do. You can find it at www.praythedevilbacktohell.com - and I think you can buy the DVD there.
The woman who was the initiator of the protests, who led the delegation to the parliament, who demanded peace, was able to attend the movie and participate in a panel discussion, along with the Liberian Ambassador to the US (and his wife). They were in St. Thomas to receive a $500K award (as was a woman from South Africa, who provides legal aid to abused women) from a foundation based in St Thomas.
There was how wonderful and moving the movie was. There was how moving and wonderful and inspirational the woman, Leymah Gbowee, was. There was how sad and horrible the war was, and how emotional it was when peace accords were reached, the UN peace keeping force moved in and bought back the weapons from the child soldiers, and when democratic elections were held. And how triumphant it was when the women of Liberia turned out in droves, and elected the first woman president ever on the continent of Africa, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson.
And there was how personally emotional it was for me, a former Peace Corps Liberia volunteer, who still has ties to the country, who learned that she could do anything after that experience, who was moved by the caring and generosity of these people who had so little but were willing to share everything.
But on top of all of that, I wore a Liberian shirt - which was recognized by the ambassador's wife, who later came up and called me her African friend and gave me a huge hug when I said I had been Peace Corps Liberia - because those few words explained it all. It explained that Liberia was one of my homes, that I had become a "mensch" there (a complete, caring, adult human), that I knew of the struggle and that the people were dear to my heart. I also spoke a little with Ms. Gbowee, who is now travelling the world working with groups of people and with governments, working toward peace, working with women who are demanding peace, working with women in developing nations who have different demands than the men - women who care about clean water and safe neighborhoods and schooling for their children. She asked where I had been in Liberia, and when I told her the town and the school, she said "Ah, and you speak Loma?" so we had a little conversation in Loma. It was one of those moments, too few and fleeting, when the world is tiny, and we are all one and united, and our spirits transcend our differences and we're all united.
It just was an incredible experience. And even DH said (though he'll deny it) that he was moved to tears many times during the night. As was I.
In the words of Ms. Gbowee, the most important thing you can give anyone is hope. Whether it is a garden in your own backyard, no matter how small it may seem, if it is positive it gives people around you hope.