Speech/statement | Date: 09/12/2011
Address by Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the film screening of Pray the Devil Back to Hell, by Abigail Disney (the story of Leymah Gbowee), by PRIO.
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Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
This is probably one of the most moving Disney movies you will ever see.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell, by Abigail Disney, is the remarkable story of Leymah Gbowee and her resolve to bring peace to Liberia.
The story of Leymah Gbowee is one of a woman whose courage and optimism exceed that of most people. This one woman decided that she would bring an end to the long and violent civil war, take on the Charles Taylor regime and the warlords, and lay the foundations for peace in her war-torn country.
A pregnant young woman with two small children, Leymah Gbowee decided that enough was enough, that the future of her children and the children of Liberia had to be saved. So that is what she set out to do.
It is a story of remarkable strength and courage, both of Leymah Gbowee and of the women who joined her from all walks of life and a wide range of religious backgrounds.
It is about their will and ability to promote reconciliation and build a new future on the ruins of the brutal war.
It is also a story that brings hope and inspiration to women, and men, who are fighting for peace and democracy across the world. It shows that one woman can start a movement that brings an end to a war.
As the Arab Spring has also demonstrated, there is enormous power in people coming together in non-violent protest, in the unwavering commitment to peace, democracy, justice and human rights, for all.
The story of Leymah Gbowee, now a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is also testimony to the potential of women in other parts of the world. It gives recognition to women in the Arab Spring countries who are struggling for their rightful roles in the transition processes, and to women in Afghanistan who fear that they may soon lose the gains for which they have fought so hard.
The story of Leymah Gbowee is also a reminder for me, and for governments around the world, to seek out the real agents of peace, behind the formal channels and beyond the media spotlight.
We were very pleased to welcome Leymah Gbowee as a speaker at the Oslo Forum earlier this year, where she addressed peace mediators from all over the world. She explained how the international community had helped to increase the power of the warlords during the negotiations in Liberia, while failing to give legitimacy to the role of women. By not including women in the talks, the mediators were not only disempowering them, but were missing out on local perspectives that were crucial to the process.
I am convinced that more inclusive processes will lead to more robust agreements. Incorporating the views of those who do not carry guns will increase the chances of achieving sustainable peace.
A few days ago, I met a group of Afghan women in Bonn. I assured them that supporting them is one of our main priorities, and that we will work to strengthen their access to and participation in reconciliation and transition processes.
We will continue to look for concrete ways to give a voice to women and enhance their visibility in all the peace and transition processes in which Norway is involved.
As in Liberia, women activists and peaceful agents of change are present – and they are active in all countries, including in countries where we tend to think they are stifled by oppression. But why don’t we hear more about women like Leymah Gbowee?
Films like Pray the Devil Back to Hell are needed to draw attention to the stories of these extraordinary women. Film is a powerful medium – images are often more powerful than words – so films have the potential to reach far wider audiences than many a political statement.
We are also proud to be supporting Abigail Disney’s new film project Women, War and Peace, which focuses on women’s peacebuilding efforts across the world. I am sure that a number of the women featured would be worthy candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize in the future.