I grew up with the concept of our “collective humanity”, in a modest neighborhood where people shared and took care of each other. A belief system was born in me, based on what I saw and experienced in my community. I was brought up and socialized to believe we would look out for each other. When the war came, there were arguments about which ethnic group was the best or the worst. People were killed not because of who they were but because of which ethnic group they belonged to. This made me sad, angry and challenged the depth of my socialization. Hate grew in places where love resided.

I used to be particularly angry with the child soldiers who killed people indiscriminately. I did not want to see or interact with any one of them. I was thrust into peace work—this is how I would like to describe it when I started volunteering at the Lutheran Church Trauma Healing Program (THRP). As a volunteer, I was assigned with child soldiers that had various forms of amputation. These were the people I was furious at for a long time. I describe it as God having a sense of humor. As I engaged with them, I realized that just as I thought I was a victim, and the women who I encountered were victims too, these children were victims as well. Many of them had been taken by force or abandoned by their families, and because of that, they were coerced and given guns to carry. It gave me perspective on how certain contexts force individuals into set roles.

Most times, people tend to think that starting a movement is only about a political ideology, but it is also about individual stories. Political ideology or social change is the rallying point, and this is true in many instances. What brought us together from the start was the pursuit of peace. Our shared goal was immediate, unconditional ceasefire, dialogues between warring parties, and the deployment of an intervention force. But I always tell people peace is not just the absence of war, it is about creating conditions that dignify people - learning about their issues and ensuring they are taken care of. I believe sincerely that the success of our work is that we prioritized the personal as well as the political. Being concerned about women within the movement was the glue that kept us together. For example - there was this one time I had just gotten back from protesting, and we got word that one of the women had been arrested because she did not pay her rent. I immediately put on my peace uniform, and gathered other women and went to the station. But when we got there, the police told us that court hours had passed, so they could not release the lady. However, when we were about to leave, one of the officers said there's a high possibility of the lady being abused if we left her at the station. So, the women and I slept in the police cell with our colleague. The next day, we processed her paperwork, paid her rent, and saw her home. I tell this story because it was the nurturing part of our movement that caught other women's attention. We had respect for each other, regardless of your background - Muslim, Christian, or whatever. When there was an issue, we disliked the act, not the individual.

I was always an activist. As a child, I always stood up for what was right or what I believed to be right, and I never imagined that I would win the Nobel Peace Prize. My actions are almost always about a situation that needs change, and which I respond to. At the end of the day; it is about humanity. Always about humanity.

Liberia's entire history began on the wrong footing. There was this place occupied by indigenous people, and then a group of freed slaves returned to occupy this same place. And now, the entire conversation about the place is solely focused on the arrival of the freed slaves, neglecting prior to. No one considered what was the history of the people before the arrival of the freed slaves. That's the first area of contention.

The second area is the treatment of the people - when the freed slaves arrived, a lot of what they did, which is typical of people who have survived trauma, is either shy away from the trauma that they experienced or embrace it. In the case of Liberia, the freed slaves embraced their trauma. They introduced the culture of segregation - something that they had fought against in the United States. For instance, freed slaves and the natives could not go to the same school. Marriage between both parties was highly discouraged. And that culture of segregation, oppression, and suppression perpetuated for years, which contributed to the civil war.

This clash between the natives and freed slaves also created a huge problem of identity in Liberia. Freed slaves did not embrace the African identity initially, which was a dilemma because they could not identify as Americans either. This dilemma caused a disconnect and misunderstanding, or what I would like to call a gap. And this gap is entrenched in the current Liberian history, where we see the labeling of traditional and indigenous practices and beliefs as evil. Even today, there is a severe invisible tussle between cultural practices and identity. This identity crisis was introduced and enforced by those who had power and authority, so it was difficult for the native people to celebrate their culture altogether. When people talk about the current state of Liberia, especially our present chaos, they blame it on the civil war. But it is not solely the war. These societal problems originated from the coming of the slaves. Our issues are rooted in the history of our nation and the interactions among the people.

However, since the civil war ended, we have seen some progress with the Liberian identity. This can be attributed to the pain caused by the war, as people who were forced into exile developed an increased sense of nationalism and patriotism, especially in the younger generations. More so, the rejection we experience as refugees has brought us closer together. Out of this pain, we must go back and do better. This is the reason Liberia has not regressed to war. Although we have all the reasons to choose war - Liberia's social and economic conditions— the thought of being rejected and not having a place to call home inspires us to choose PEACE. Everyone has recognized the need for reconciliation - the need for a journey to create a shared memory. But for years and years, no one group has been bold enough to say, let's start this journey. The hope is that as Liberians suffer collectively, they are ensuring that peace remains. Eventually, we will get to a place where people will say, let's journey and create a history representing all and not one group of people.