2020 Keynote Speakers
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist, trained social worker and women’s rights advocate. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Women, Peace and Security Program at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and is the founder and current President of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, the founding head of the Liberia Reconciliation Initiative, and co-founder and former Executive Director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-A).
She is also a founding member and former Liberian Coordinator of Women in Peacebuilding Network/West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP). Ms. Gbowee’s leadership of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace – which brought together Christian and Muslim women in a nonviolent movement that played a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s civil war in 2003 – is chronicled in her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers, and in the award-winning documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell.
In 2005, Victoria was 11 years old when she came down with two rare neurological disorders, Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis. She fought for her life for five years, including four years in a vegetative state where she was ‘locked’ within herself, unable to communicate with those around her. At times, she suffered seizures for more than 20 hours per day. She was paralyzed from the waist down for a decade and incredibly, regained the ability to walk in 2016.
A lifelong swimmer and athlete, despite her illness, Victoria never gave up her childhood dream of competing in the Olympics Games.
In June of 2010, she returned to the pool for the first time in over ten years. Two years later, she qualified for the 2012 London Paralympic Games in four different events. There she won a Gold Medal, setting a World Record, and three Silver Medals.