POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Liberian social worker, women’s rights advocate, and peace activist Leymah Gbowee, a recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, will deliver the address at the 148th Vassar College commencement exercises on Sunday, May 20, 2012. The program at the campus Outdoor Amphitheater begins at 10:00am.
Ms. Gbowee and fellow 2011 Peace Prize laureates Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, and Tawakkol Karman, a Yemenese democracy advocate, were jointly honored by the Nobel Foundation "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”
"We're thrilled that Leymah Gbowee has agreed to be this year's commencement speaker. Her life story of leading the struggle for peace, justice and human dignity in the most difficult circumstances is tremendously uplifting,” said Vassar president Catharine Hill. “That story and her continuing advocacy for women's rights and the role of women in building just societies is one that inspires us across a wide range of interests and disciplines at Vassar. It will be our distinct honor to have her with us for this occasion."
In recognition of Gbowee’s work supporting young West African women to pursue post-secondary education, Vassar has also agreed to provide scholarships for two such young women to attend the college. Vassar will work with Gbowee to identify promising candidates who meet Vassar’s admission requirements, and who would qualify for the college’s need-based financial aid program. The scholarships will cover all expenses necessary for the students to study at Vassar for four years.
More about Leymah Gbowee
A single mother of six children, Leymah Gbowee gained international acclaim for her leadership of Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, a nonviolent movement that brought together Christian and Muslim women and played a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s civil war in 2003.
Among her many distinguished roles Gbowee is executive director and a founding member of Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-A), a women-led organization established in 2006 to promote women's strategic participation and leadership throughout Africa in peace and security governance. She also heads the Liberia Reconciliation Initiative, and is a founding member and former Liberia Coordinator of the Women in Peacebuilding Network/West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP).
Gbowee published her memoir Mighty Be Our Powers in 2011, she is the Africa columnist for Newsweek Daily Beast, and she was the subject of the 2008 documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Her honors include the John Jay Medal for Justice (2010), the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award (2009), the Gruber Prize for Women's Rights (2009), the Women's eNews Leaders for the 21st Century Award (2008), and the Blue Ribbon Peace Award from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government (2007). Gbowee holds a Master’s degree in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and an Associate of Arts degree in social work from Mother Patern College of Health Sciences in Monrovia, Liberia.
Gbowee first visited Vassar in 2009
In the spring 2009 semester Leymah Gbowee spoke with Vassar students in the “Global Feminism” course offered by the Women’s Studies program. The course screened the documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell -- of which Gbowee is the main subject -- immediately followed by a discussion with Gbowee and the film’s director Gini Reticker.
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