A lot has happened since 2008 when a Sunday night premiere screening and dinner co-hosted by Gloria Steinem honored Leymah Gbowee, a charismatic social worker turned activist who, in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell, tells her compelling story about how women banded together to protest violence in Liberia, set their hideous dictator Charles Taylor on a journey of exile, to be put on trial for war crimes, and enabled a democratically elected woman to govern their country. Self-assured and instinctively political, Gbowee came off as a modern day Lysistrata, as in the ancient Greek satirist Aristophanes' play, a character who organized women in a sex strike to protest the Peloponnesian War. Now a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Leymah Gbowee was honored on Thursday morning at the New York Women's Foundation breakfast, along with Tina Brown, founder of Women of the World Foundation among her many media accomplishments, and Rachel Lloyd, founder of GEMS, Girls Educational & Mentoring Services, to help victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.
Of course the most moving stories come from women who have been aided by these highly successful organizations. Ruth Moore, for example told the harrowing story of her rape by a superior officer while she was in the U. S. military, and the means by which institutions attempted to cover up the scandal. After over 20 years, now a Ruth Moore Act of 2013 is in place. Yenny Quispe, from Peru, spoke about her police captain father's beatings, knowing she was "queer." Her story traces her mother's bringing her to America, and her realized dream of citizenship.
Handed her walking stick, colorfully adorned with feathers and beads, Leymah Gbowee said her father would be jealous. "His walking stick is not cool like mine." Inspiring the room of 2200 women with a sprinkling of men toward activism, Gbowee encouraged everyone as she had been emboldened by Gloria Steinem: You can't lose steam. Let this breakfast remind you, be angry and regenerate your steam. Step out and make a difference. "I still can't believe that Americans can wake up early to have breakfast. Stand up and let's dance." And with that, the 2200 stood and gyrated to her beat
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