African & Arab Women Share 2011 Nobel Peace Prize
The winners of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize were announced and this years honorees, or laureates, include three people being recognized “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work,” according the prize’s Web site. However, the women’s achievements suggest a struggle for the peace and prosperity of entire nations, even continents, regardless of gender.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the current president of the African nation of Liberia. She is the first and currently only female head of state in Africa. Her six-year presidency has marked one of the longest periods of relative peace and economic growth in the nation since a military coup in 1980 launched decades of political oppression, civil war, and child militias. However, Sirleaf is still facing a tough path to reelection. By coincidence, the Nobel announcement came just weeks before voters went to the polls yesterday, still dissatisfied with persistent unemployment and continuing social rifts. Election results will be announced on Oct. 26.
Leyah Gbowee, also Liberian, was a leader of the peace movement that ultimately pressured warring factions into ending the Second Liberian Civil War. Her Women of Liberia Mass Action For Peace organization began as a group of women praying and singing in a fish market; it grew to employ a variety of nonviolent protest means including demonstrations and sit-ins, but is most publicized for encouraging women to withhold sex from their husbands and boyfriends until a peace was forged.
Yemini journalist Tawakkul Karman has been called the “Mother of the Revolution” for her role in Yemen’s ongoing uprising against president Ali Abdullah Saleh. By organizing protests in the capital city, Sanaa, and frequently writing editorials both domestically and international calling for reforms and demonstrations, Karman has helped drive forward the movement.
Reacting to her award, Karman said, “This is a victory for the Arab Spring in Tunis, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen,” according to Reuters.
Karman, Sirleaf, and Gbowee are still only the 13th, 14th, and 15th women to win the prize, compared to 86 men. In 2004, Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to received the prize, for her work in human rights, democracy and environment conservation in Africa; she passed away just last month. Karman is the first Arab woman to win the prize; at age 32, she ties Mairead Corrigan of Northern Ireland to be the youngest person to receive the peace prize.