Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee to speak at SMU May 23, 2012

2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee
Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Photo credit: Michael Angelo for Wonderland.

Liberian peace activist and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee will make one of her few scheduled 2012 U.S. speaking appearances at SMU on Wednesday, May 23. The author of Mighty Be Our Powers will discuss “Women, Leadership and Human Rights” at 7:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater.

On the day of her SMU appearance, Gbowee will be a guest on KERA Radio’s “Think” during the 1-2 p.m. hour. Listen live at audio

Gbowee’s visit to the Hilltop presents a rare opportunity to hear her discuss her role in helping end Liberia’s second civil war, as well as her advice on how women can bring about change in seemingly hopeless situations.

> Newsweek: A Dictator, Vanquished (4/29/2012)

Gbowee began pushing for change as a trauma and rehabilitation volunteer during Liberia’s second civil war. Lasting from 1989 to 2003, the war was sparked by deep-seated anger over economic inequality, natural resources abuse and vicious rivalries between ethnic groups that included descendants of the freed American slaves who founded Liberia in 1847.

At the conflict’s center was Charles Taylor, the notorious warlord who served as Liberian president until being forced into exile in 2003, thanks in large part to Gbowee’s leadership efforts. Last month, a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, convicted Taylor of 11 counts of war crimes – including acts of terrorism, murder and rape – for arming and aiding Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front in a terror campaign in Sierra Leone and Liberia that claimed 120,000 lives from 1991-2001. It was the world court’s first judgment against a former head of state since the World War II Nuremberg trials. Sentencing for Taylor, who has pleaded innocent, is scheduled for May 30.

> National Public Radio: War crimes judges hear Charles Taylor’s sentencing pleas (5/16/2012)

“Leymah represents a new movement of women in the world starting – and achieving – grassroots movements for peace, justice and human rights,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Associate Director Pat Davis. “In acts that were selfless and courageous in the face of terrible brutality, she led a group of women to help throw out a dictator [Taylor] and elect the first female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is weeding out corruption herself.”

Tickets are $10 for students, $25 for WAC members and $35 for non-members. The lecture is presented by the World Affairs Council (WAC) of Dallas/Fort Worth in partnership with SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, the Embrey Family Foundation, the Boone Family Foundation, Donna Wilhelm and Trea Yip.

For more information, call 214-965-8412 or visit

Written by Denise Gee

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Iraqi women meet with former President and Mrs. Bush at SMU

Former President and Mrs. Bush with Iraqi women at SMUFormer President George W. Bush and Laura Bush met with eight Iraqi women at SMU on May 14 as part of the delegation’s visit to the United States under the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

The exchange, which included several U.S. cities, was coordinated by World Learning Visitor Exchange Program in cooperation with the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth. The women are officials in Iraq representing professions ranging from public works administration to nursing education.

Several SMU faculty members attended the event – Crista DeLuzio of the Clements Department of History and Carolyn Smith-Morris of the Department of Anthropology, both in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Maria Minniti, Cox School of Business; Jenia Turner, Dedman School of Law; and Susanne Scholz, Perkins School of Theology. SMU student Natalie Kashefi also attended. Gail Turner, wife of SMU President R. Gerald Turner, hosted a reception for the group; and Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for development and external affairs, was among those welcoming the delegation to campus.

The World Affairs Council was represented by its president, Jim Falk, and executive vice president Beth Huddleston, who also serves as a member of the board of the National Council for International Visitors. The Council serves as the Department of State’s coordinator of the International Visitor Leadership Program in Dallas and Fort Worth.

“Both President and Mrs. Bush spoke about the vital role women play in building and maintaining civil society and about how essential the guarantee of women’s rights is to a healthy democracy,” said DeLuzio. “The Iraqi women spoke eloquently about their courageous attempts to empower women and to further women’s rights in their country.

“I teach about the long and ongoing struggle for gender equality in the United States. This exchange inspired me to try to do more to educate my students about women’s movements around the world and to encourage them to think comparatively about women’s work on behalf of social justice and gender equality across time and place.”

Read more and see additional photos from SMU News