June 22, 2018
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Nobel Peace Prize winner, African activist to speak at University of Maine School of Law

Leymah Gbowee
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — An activist and women’s rights advocate who won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to end civil war in Liberia will deliver the University of Maine School of Law’s second annual Justice for Women Lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center, 471 Stroudwater St.

Leymah Gbowee founded Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. It brought together Christian and Muslim women in a nonviolent movement. Their efforts helped end the Liberian civil war in 2003 and also contributed to the election of the first female head of state in African history.

Her speech at Maine Law is titled “The Rule of Law and Justice for Victims of Sexual Violence.”

Gbowee was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakel Karman of Yemen. Among her many achievements, Gbowee is founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, and co-founder and executive director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa.

“Leymah Gbowee is a dynamic world leader and inspiring speaker,” Peter Pitegoff, dean of Maine Law, said in a recent press release. “Her life work and values fit well with Maine Law’s goals for the Justice for Women Lecture Series, and we are honored to welcome her to Maine.”

Gbowee’s work is chronicled in the memoir “Mighty Be Our Powers,” due out in paperback later this month, and in the documentary film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.”

Gbowee said Tuesday in an email response to questions that she expected her topic would resonate with students at the law school and Portland area residents.

“The face of justice, and the face of justice for women in particular, is no different from the global face,” she said. “It is my expectation that university students are interested not only in the law, but in justice, a value sorely absent when it comes to the protection and upholding of human rights of women and girls. Justice issues for women in developing countries and developed countries remain the same — women everywhere still struggle for justice in varying degrees.

“While the context may be different, the issues of equality and poverty remain the same,” Gbowee continued. “All around the world, we see that social justice and poverty has a woman’s face — in America and in Liberia. Everywhere, there still remains unique issues of rape and abuse for women which is comparatively very high compared to men. This demonstrates we still have a long way to go.”

The law school established the lecture series with support from attorney and civic leader Catherine Lee and other donors. Lee is founder and manager of Lee International Business Development in Westbrook. In her travels, Lee has been inspired by the range of initiatives that aim to eliminate barriers for women and girls around the world, the press release said.

“One of the reasons why Maine Law established the lecture series was to honor and connect with the growing immigrant communities in Southern Maine,” Trevor Maxwell, spokesman for the law school, said. “The area is home to relatively large communities from Somalia, Sudan, Cambodia, Vietnam and numerous other nations. Recent newcomers include families from central African nations such as Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Many of these families share common ties with Leymah Gbowee, having endured injustice and the tragedies of war,” he continued. “We have reached out to people within these communities, and we anticipate that many immigrants will attend the lecture.”

For tickets to the event, call 790-4344 or email mainelaw@maine.edu.

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