UPDATE: The three Nobel Peace Prize winners, women who challenged war and oppression have shared the stage in Oslo to receive the 2011 Nobel peace prize.
It’s easy to hear the news that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to three women doing amazing work throughout the world and move on without a second thought. But just who are these women? What have they achieved that make them so worthy?
This cheat sheet should help you get a quick understanding.
It won’t be enough, it never is, but it might help build an appreciation. Let’s begin.
1. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Africa’s first democratically elected female leader when she was elected President of Liberia in 2005. Among her supporters she is known as the ‘iron lady’, a 72-year-old who rose to the top through scrapes, shrewd politics and the odd dance with shady characters.
In her time as President she has been seen as progressive. She issued a decree making education free and compulsory for all primary school-aged children, signed a freedom of information bill, reduced debt and established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate more than 20-years of civil conflict.
President Sirleaf is not without her critics, including those who are angry the Nobel committee deemed her worthy of the Peace prize just days before new Presidential electio
ns in which she may now have an advantage, but outwardly her profile has been one of success. She has been named on numerous ‘best leaders’ lists and has been referred to as – arguably – the best President Liberia has ever had.
2. Leymah Gbowee, Liberian peace activist
Leymah is best known for her work agitating for peace in a Liberia under the control of former warlord and then President Charles Taylor, whom Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had worked with before disowning him.
“She brought Christian and Muslim women together to pray for peace, braving the sun, the rain and the deafening sounds of bombs and fighting.
“Nothing happened overnight. In fact it took three years of community awareness, sit-ins, and non-violent demonstrations staged by ordinary “market women”,” Gbowee wrote in her Africa column in Newsweek magazine.
Her campaign called for an immediate ceasefire, dialogue between government and rebels and the deployment of an intervention force at a time when a handful of peace agreements had failed.
3. Tawakel Karman, Yemeni activist
Tawakel is a peace and freedom activist in Yemen where she has worked as a journalist and fought for press freedom. She was a prominent figure in this year’s Yemeni uprising, part of the Arab Spring revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa, and has been referred to as ‘the Mother of the Revolution’.
She has protested in various ways, most famously by refusing to wear the traditional niqab and swapping it for brightly coloured head scarves that reveal her face. She co-founded the group Women Journalists Without Chains.
“As it is being part of the democratic process is very difficult for both men and women, especially if the position the activist or politician takes is against the state or influential bodies. So imagine what it would be like for women who are already oppressed just because they are born as women?”
This is just a start to introduce you to these three women. Hope it helps.