Nobel Peace Prize winners 2011 (LtoR): Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman (Getty)
In its annual ceremony, The Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf,
Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman for their work in women’s rights issues with the hope that the award “will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.”
“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,” Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told Reuters.
Johnson-Sirleaf is Africa’s first freely elected female head of state, having won the presidency in 2005. After initially serving as Liberia’s Minister of Finance, Johnson-Sirleaf’s criticism of the People’s Redemption Council, who seized control of Liberia in a military coup in 1980, led her to being imprisoned a couple times during the 1980s. She fled the country as it descended into one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars, but returned to run for president at the end of the Second Liberian Civil War. Johnson-Sirleaf recently announced in January that she plans to run for a second term.
Leymah Gbowee is credited for aiding in the end of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. Gbowee organized the Women For Peace movement in 2002, which began with local women praying and singing in a fish market and eventually grew to unite Christian and Muslim women as they prayed and staged non-violent protests around the country. Her struggle was chronicled in the award-winning 2008 documentary film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”.
Tawakkul Karman helped organize the Women Journalists Without Chains human rights group in 2005, and organized non-violent protests earlier this year against Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his government. Karman was arrested twice for her efforts, which led Saleh to announce in April that he would step down in a month, though, he ultimately refused to sign a transition agreement. Even after an assassination attempt in June, Saleh still remains Yemen’s president. “In the most trying circumstances, both before and during the Arab Spring, Tawakul Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen,” the Nobel citation read.
In the video below, Gbowee responds to winning the Peace Prize, noting that what she does was important “with or without” the Nobel Peace Prize.
And of course, many of you were also thrilled by the choice of honorees.