2011 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded jointly to three women – Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman, a pro-democracy activist from Yemen.
The three women were recognized for their “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”.
Thorbjorn Jagland, the Nobel Committee chairman said:
“We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women achieve the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.”
Reading from the prize citation, Thorbjorn Jagland said the committee hoped the prize would “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”.
Tawakul Karman heard of her win from Change Square in the capital Sanaa, where she has been living for several months in a protest camp calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to stand down.
Tawakul Karman was recognized for playing a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights in Yemen’s pro-democracy protests “in the most trying circumstances” and is the first Arab women to win the prize.
As the head of Yemeni organization Women Journalists without Chains, the mother-of-three, Tawakul Karman has been jailed several times over her campaigns for press freedom and her opposition to the government.
Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72, who had been widely tipped as a winner, said the award was “for all Liberian people” and a recognition of “many years of struggle for justice”.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, an US-educated economist and the former finance minister was elected in 2005, following the end of Liberia’s 14-year civil war which left 250,000 people dead, caused thousands to flee abroad and financially ruined the country.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, known as Liberia’s “Iron Lady”, has pledged to fight corruption and bring “motherly sensitivity and emotion to the presidency” as a way of healing the wounds of war.
Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa’s first female elected head of state.
Liberian President is popular among women and the country’s small elite, but disliked by more traditional male-dominated sections of society.
She is standing for re-election next week, having previously said she would one hold the presidency for one term.
Leymah Gbowee was a leading critic of the violence during the Liberian civil war, mobilizing women across ethnic and religious lines in peace activism – in part through implementing a “sex strike” – and encouraging them to participate in elections.
In 2003, Leymah Gbowee led a march through the capital, Monrovia, demanding an end to the rape of women by soldiers, which had continued despite a peace deal being signed three months earlier.
According to Nobel Committee, Leymah Gbowee had “worked to enhance the influence of women in West Africa during and after war”.
Leymah Gbowee said: “I am confused. I am humbled. This is the first time in the 39 years of my life that I am out of words.
“This is a victory for women rights everywhere in the world. What could be better then three women winning the prize?
“This is the recognition that we hear you, we see you, we acknowledge you.”
The three women will share the $1.5 million prize money.
The Nobel Peace Prize originally recognized those who had already achieved peace, but that its scope has broadened in recent years to encourage those working towards peace and acknowledge work in progress.
The Nobel committee received a record 241 nominations for 2011 prize – among the individuals and groups believed to have been put forward were the European Union, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and key cyber dissidents in the Arab Spring movement.