The Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 was jointly awarded to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Muslim activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.
Sirleaf is Africa’s first democratically elected female president. 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. Gbowee mobilized and organized women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the war in Liberia, and to ensure women’s participation in elections. She has since worked to enhance the influence of women in West Africa during and after war. Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"This gives me a stronger commitment to work for reconciliation," Sirleaf said Friday from her home in Monrovia after hearing of the award. "Liberians should be proud."
Sirleaf, 72, was elected president in 2005, after earlier losing to notorious warlord Charles Taylor in 1997 elections. She is running for a second term on Tuesday. When she took office in 2006, Liberia didn't have roads, water, electricity and a proper army. Sirleaf has managed to turn around the nation's conditions, bringing electricity to the capital, clean water to citizens and putting children in school.
The Harvard-educated Sirleaf worked her way through college in the United States by mopping floors and waiting tables, according to the Associated Press.
Gbowee is an activist who organized Christian and Muslim women to challenge Liberia's warlords. She was honored for mobilizing women "across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure women's participation in elections," writes the Associated Press.
She has been a steadfast advocate of women's rights and in 2003 she led hundreds of female protesters through Monrovia seeking disarmament of fighters who preyed on women throughout Liberia during 14 years of civil war.
Gbowee is the director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa in Ghana.
Karman is known "the iron woman" and the "mother of the revolution" among young Yemenis. The 32-year-old has been the face of the mass uprising against the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Her arrest in January helped spark protests by hundreds of thousands demanding the ouster of Saleh and the formation of a democratic government.
The mother of three is a longtime activist for human rights and freedom of expression. Since 2007 she has been organizing protests in an effort to reform the government.
The head of the Nobel Committee told the AP that Karman's award is "a signal that the Arab Spring cannot be successful without including the women in it."
The Nobel Committee says it hopes that the prize to the three women will serve as a motivator to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries.
The $1.5 million award was split three ways.
(Photo: AP/Josh Reynolds, File)