Over the weekend, I saw an amazing film by Abigail Disney called Pray The Devil Back To Hell,
(T)he extraordinary story of a small band of Liberian women who came together in the midst of a bloody civil war, took on the violent warlords and corrupt Charles Taylor regime, and won a long-awaited peace for their shattered country in 2003.
As the rebel noose tightened upon Monrovia, and peace talks faced collapse, the women of Liberia – Christian and Muslims united – formed a thin but unshakable white line between the opposing forces, and successfully demanded an end to the fighting–armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions.
In one remarkable scene, the women barricaded the site of stalled peace talks in Ghana, and announced they would not move until a deal was done. Faced with eviction, they invoked the most powerful weapon in their arsenal – threatening to remove their clothes. It worked.
The women of Liberia are living proof that moral courage and non-violent resistance can succeed, even where the best efforts of traditional diplomacy have failed.
Their demonstrations culminated in the exile of Charles Taylor and the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female head of state, and marked the vanguard of a new wave of women taking control of their political destiny around the world.
This remarkable chapter of world history was on its way to being lost forever. The Liberian war and peace movement were largely ignored as the international press focused on Iraq. Moreover, the women’s own modesty helped obscure this great accomplishment.
In the movie, there is a reference to the Greek play Lysistrata and what is truly remarkable is that this real life embodiment of the point that the play was making took place the same year that the play was re-enacted by women around the world. In the play,
The title character, Lysistrata, organizes women from warring Greek city-states to band together and deny sex to their husbands until they stop the Peloponnesian War. Unable to bear their intense—and highly visible—longings, the men finally agree to lay down their swords and call a permanent truce.
In real life, the women of Liberia, with virtually no notice or support from the outside world threatened to withhold sex, get naked and finally they barricaded the doors. AND IT WORKED. So maybe, just maybe, the time has come to quit acting out Lysistrata and just do it.