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Mentoring Liberia’s Next Generation of Fearless Women

Nobel Peace laureate Leymah Gbowee, who helped end Liberia’s civil war, and Etweda ‘Sugars’ Cooper, who secured Gbowee’s place at the head of the women’s movement, are still each others’ champions. While Gbowee owes much to Sugars for installing her at the helm of WIPNET and her subsequent mentorship and loyalty, this is but one example of the mutual support in their relationship. Although known to be a fearless activist in her own right, brokering peace deals and disarming factions at the end of the first civil war, and impervious to the call of the gravy train as she focused on her cause, Sugars admits she shies from the limelight. Gbowee admits to having grown more thoughtful in her advocacy because of the weight her words now carry. “I’m not a noisy gun,” she says. But that does not mean she remains silent. In July 2019, she used her platform as the national orator of the state-organised Independence Day celebration to launch a scathing attack on the performance of the ruling party and opposition as Liberians endured the effects of worsening economic hardship. Sugars has now retired from front-line activism and public service. “What I needed was somebody else to carry the torch and that’s what Leymah is doing,” she says.