‘Mighty Be Our Powers’ promotes change, encourages women to advocate for peace

Samantha Weiss February 27, 2013 0

Harvard University Women’s Studies professor Laurel Ulrich Thatcher once said that “women who behave seldom make history.” Leymah Gbowee, whose all-female peace movement changed the history of Liberia, chose to misbehave for the sake of her people. She documents the struggles and victories of the movements and her personal life in her autobiography “Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War.”
Civil war tore through the country of Liberia, leaving death, illness, pestilence and a dwindling population in its wake. It had no regard for age, ethnicity or gender. It had no problems destroying families and enlisting children to its cause. It served the warlords and laid waste to the rest of the country. It wasn’t until her four-year-old son asked for food that she could not provide that Gbowee truly knew what war meant and what it was doing to her people.
Gbowee stresses in her novel that women and children are the true victims of war, especially in nations like hers. While the men fight and die, the women are brutalized, raped, forced to find employment that barely exists, provide for families and watch the horrors, which they neither support nor accept, destroy lives. In the case of the Liberian civil war, displaced women were also drafted into military or rebel service; most didn’t survive the conflicts into which they were thrown. The women in this story take it upon themselves to change their own situation, rather than waiting on the men who created the problems to do so. Despite her heavy emphasis on the innocence of most women, she acknowledges fault in both the men and women of her country and calls for a joint resolution.
Surviving the torrent of bullets that rained on her city one day and the abuse of her husband, Daniel, the next, Gbowee found strength in her faith and turned to God for help. She says that her prayers were answered in the form of a group of female activists. What started as sit-ins, with thousands of women cloaked in white, turned into the incorporation of women in government decisions and disbarment programs. The changes that these women made did not take place over night, nor were they easily accomplished. Gbowee suffered from the separation of her family, while other women endured physical and mental abuse, in an attempt to dissuade them from their cause.
Be aware that the book is not only  terrifying, but also very real. Not everyone is prepared to handle the brutality that Gbowee describes, and for that reason, the novel is inappropriate for children and young teens. Even some adults may find the story too graphic for their taste. However, the story needs to be heard and much to Gbowee’s credit, she doesn’t change the facts or soften the reality of the war for the sake of readership.
Without a doubt, the book deserves five stars for excellent storytelling. Gbowee manages to entrap the war between the pages, telling the story in amazing detail, while enticing readers everywhere, especially women, into action. She calls to the women of the world to misbehave and change history with her, to never stop working for peace and equality.
Gbowee will visit Elizabethtown College this April to give lectures on peace-making and the work she and her organizations have done in Liberia and elsewhere. Specifically, she will present the annual Ware Lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17.

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