Three women peace heroes will receive Nobel Peace Prize for 2011

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Nobel Peace Prize recipient Tawakkul Karman
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Tawakkul Karman sits in her tent during a protest 'sit-in' - Sanaa, Yemen October 5, 2011. Image: Ahmed Jadallah/Scanpix

This year’s 2011 pick for the Nobel Peace Prize recognizes three outstanding women “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has chosen Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman to share the prize and award money equaling 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.48 million or 1.08 million euros) by dividing the award monies into three equal parts. All three women have worked with courage and non-stop effort to bring women into the process of decision making and leadership as participants in regional and global peace.

Reaffirming that women play an important role in “the prevention and resolution of conflicts” the UN Resolution 1325, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on October 31, 2000, stressed the importance of women’s equal participation and “full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security and the need to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution.”

The three women, who have been part of a Nobel Peace Prize legacy with 4,857 nominees and 128 Laureates since its beginning in 1901, are going to officially receive their prize Oslo City Hall on December 10.

We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” said Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland on release of the prize.

The 2000 resolution recognized that women, as those who often bear the brunt of suffering under war and conflict, are pivotal to reaching peace and resolution through their combined and global efforts.

As the first female Head of State in Africa in 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the 24th, and first, female president of Liberia during a time of political turmoil and unrest following 14 years of civil war where she successfully brought corruption reform to the electorate; bringing with it for the first time a fair process of democracy in elections to the region. “Since her inauguration in 2006, she has contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women,” says the Nobel Committee.

When Sirleaf was asked on December 2010 by President of the Paley Center for Media and TEDWomen co-host Pat Mitchell how she feels about being called the “Iron Lady” of Liberia Sirleaf answered, “You know I’m in a post-conflict country. You know, where men are ferocious. We have to tell them something to scare them.”

“Being a woman and going through what I went through set me apart and enabled me to achieve what I’ve achieved. So in a way I’ve been lucky. I’ve been a victor of circumstances,” said Sirleaf who is herself a survivor of sexual assault.

Playing a pivotal role in Liberia’s peace process, native Ghana social worker, mother of 6 children and trauma expert Leymah Gbowee brought both Christian and Muslim women together from a wide divide to demand peace to the region during the second civil war in Liberia.

Gbowee has also been recognized for her courage by the 2009 John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award and the 2009 Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation Gruber Prize, among other awards. Founder of Women, Peace and Security Network Ghana, Leymah’s experience in conflict resolution brought her to a position as Commissioner-designate for the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her book, “Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War,” outlines the role women took with an organized sex-strike that helped speed the peace process into the war-torn region.

“We have a whole generation of people who have only known war. They are used to chaos because that is the only language that they understand. Our role as activists and advocates is to really show them how to function,” said Gbowee in an interview with Women News Network outlining how peace must partner with actions to stop violence against women. “It’s overwhelming. There’s so much to do,” she added.

“Open your eyes and then close your eyes and dream of a world where babies no longer die by the roadside, where women are no longer brutally raped with impunity, where the U.N. is going into villages to find women from rural areas to sit at the peace table, where President Obama goes to Liberia and says, ‘I want to consult with the rural women first.’ Do you see that future?” said Gbowee to those in attendance during the JFK Profiles in Courage award.

Leading the struggle for women’s rights and democracy in Yemen, 32-year-0ld Tawakkul Karman activated a new generation of pro-democracy youth using seven pages on Facebook to spark what Karman called “a peaceful revolution to demand an end to a despotic regime.”

Suffering under 36 hours of arrest and in chains after Karman was detained by plain-clothed police officers for her actions in organizing pro-democracy protests, Tawakkul continued to advocate against the limits on freedom of the press in Yemen. Even after multiple arrests and personal suffering Karman asked that protesters keep their intentions clear reminding them over and over it must come through “peaceful revolution.”

“In five years my country has witnessed six wars, but now the people’s guns are silent; they have chosen peaceful change. Despite the fact that hundreds of protesters have been killed by the regime, not one police officer or security agent has been killed by the masses. Even Ma’arab, the most unruly and turbulent province, has witnessed its first peaceful demonstrations,” said Karman in an article she wrote for The Guardian News in April 2011.

“It is the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s hope that the prize to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realise the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent,” said the Oslo based Nobel Committee.


Today’s announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize by Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee (7 October 2011) shares the news that the shared Nobel Peace Prize award will be given to three peace women – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman “…for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”. This 1:01 min October 7, 2011 video is a production.


For more information about the history and development of  The Nobel Peace Prize –


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