July 16, 2024


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Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Appointed to Seton Hall School of Diplomacy Board of Advisors

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – Feb. 2 – The Seton Hall University School of Diplomacy and International Relations has announced the appointment of 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Madam Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist, social worker and women’s rights advocate, to the School’s Board of Advisors.

“Madam Gbowee’s willingness to serve on the School’s Board is testament to the global impact being made by our faculty, alumni and students,” said School of Diplomacy Board Chairman Richard Gannon. “Her energy, experience and accomplishments will inspire future generations at Seton Hall.”

Leymah Gbowee is best known for leading a nonviolent movement that brought together Christian and Muslim women to play a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s devastating, fourteen-year civil war in 2003. This historic achievement paved the way for the election of Africa’s first female head of state, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. It also marked the vanguard of a new wave of women emerging worldwide as essential and uniquely effective participants in brokering lasting peace and security.

Madam Gbowee has been a friend to the School for many years, having been featured by the School’s World Leaders Forum speaker series in 2014. Since that time, the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa-USA, founded by Madam Gbowee, has hosted Seton Hall School of Diplomacy interns nearly every semester. The Foundation provides educational and leadership development opportunities for women, girls and youth.

School of Diplomacy Board of Advisors member and Diplomacy alumna Gail Thornton was instrumental in creating the School’s internship program with the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa-USA and nominated Madam Gbowee to serve on the Board. She said of the appointment, “Having first met Leymah at a School of Diplomacy event, it has been my privilege to now have been working with her for years. Bringing our talented students into the important work of the Foundation gives me great pride. I am thrilled that we can further this partnership through Leymah’s service on the Board.”

The School of Diplomacy’s Board of Advisors counsels the dean to set and maintain the direction of the School toward excellence. Together, the Board and dean seek to maximize the School’s impact in the world; add value for all involved, especially students; contribute to the School’s development goals, including expanding the its network and reputation; and provide feedback to the dean. “We are thrilled to welcome Madam Gbowee back to campus. I look forward to the incredible impact her advisement will add to the Board and, most importantly, to our students through her vast experience and expertise,” said Acting Dean Courtney Smith.

With the advancement of this partnership between Madam Gbowee and the School, she will serve as a visiting scholar in the 2022-2023 school year. In addition, the School and the Board will work to secure additional scholarships for African students to pursue a degree from the School. The School’s partnership with the Gbowee Peace Foundation will continue and expand in the coming years.

Executive Director of the Foundation, Sarah Jewell, said of the partnership, “Access to education and the importance of diplomacy are universal issues. Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa-USA has been thrilled to partner with Seton Hall University to offer internships to students to offer on-the-job experience that contribute to ensuring scholarships for young people in Liberia. It’s exciting to see another connection form between the School of Diplomacy and Liberia, with the appointment of our founder and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee to the board of advisors. Ms. Gbowee is a passionate advocate for grassroots feminist activism and for the future of Africa — themes that I’m sure she’ll continue to explore through her new role at Seton Hall.”

Background on Madam Gbowee
Leymah Gbowee was seventeen when the Liberian civil war started. While the conflict raged, she became a young mother and eventually trained as a social worker and trauma counselor, working with ex-child soldiers. She became a founding member and Liberia Coordinator of the Women in Peacebuilding Network of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding. She organized her fellow Christian women to mobilize for peace, and collaborated with a Muslim partner to build an unprecedented coalition with Muslim women, giving rise to the interfaith movement known as the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace.

Madam Gbowee was appointed its spokesperson and led thousands of women in weeks-long public protests that forced Liberia’s President Charles Taylor to meet with them and agree to formal peace talks in Accra, Ghana. She led a delegation of women to Accra, where they applied strategic pressure to ensure progress, including forming a human barricade to prevent Taylor’s representatives and the rebel warlords from leaving the meeting until they reached a peace agreement. Within weeks, Taylor resigned the presidency and went into exile, and a peace treaty mandating a transitional government was signed.

Madam Gbowee emerged as a global leader whose participation was in demand at meetings of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and other major international conferences. Her story was told in the 2008 documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell and her 2011 memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers.

Before founding the Gbowee Peace Foundation in 2012, she co-founded the Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-A) in Accra and went on to serve as its Executive Director for six years. WIPSEN-A is a women-led and women-focused pan-African nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting women’s strategic participation and leadership in peace and security governance on the continent. WIPSEN-A’s leadership development programs in both Ghana and Liberia have transformed the lives of countless young women.  

In addition to her many accolades, Madam Gbowee is the proud mother of a Seton Hall School of Diplomacy graduate, Leemu Madison, M.A. ’19.

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