The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 is to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. 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.
Read the full press release at Nobelprize.org
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa’s first democratically elected female president. The committee said that since her inauguration in 2006, Johnson-Sirleaf had "contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women".
"We are dancing," Bushuben Keita, a spokesman for Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf's United Party told The New York Times. "This is the thing that we have been saying, progress has been made in Libera. We've come through 14 years of war and we have come to sustained peace. We’ve already started dancing."
Gbowee, 39, has long campaigned for the rights of women and against rape, organizing Christian and Muslim women to challenge Liberia's warlords. In 2003, she led hundreds of female protesters – the "women in white" – through Monrovia to demand swift disarmament of fighters who continued to prey on women even though a peace deal ending 14 years of near-constant civil war had been reached months earlier.
"I know Leymah to be a warrior daring to enter where others would not dare," Gbowee's assistant, Bertha Amanor, said to the AP. "So fair and straight, and a very nice person."
It said Yemen's Karman, known as 'the Mother of the Revolution', had "played a leading part in the struggle for women's rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen" in what was described as the "most trying circumstances both before and during the 'Arab Spring'".
"Tawakkol is one of the bravest people in this country," said Khaled al-Anesi, a lawyer and pro-democracy activist. "It is not easy for a woman to fight and go to the streets demanding change in a country like Yemen."
“I am so happy,” said Karman, speaking by telephone in broken English from inside her tent in Change Square, the nexus of the uprising in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. “I believe that this award is a victory for the peaceful revolution. It’s a victory for our revolution, for our methods, for our struggle, for all Yemeni youth, and all the youth in the Arab world — in Tunisia, in Egypt, everywhere. I am so happy.”
“This makes us stronger in the fight for our freedom, for our dignity,” she added. “This will give the people more strength, and to recognize that peace is the only way. That making a new Yemen must come without violence.”
Karman was briefly detained in January, but protests forced authorities to release her. Since then, Yemen’s uprising has engulfed the country, drawing in hundreds of thousands of Yemenis from all walks of life. Not all youth activist leaders like Karman’s tactics, and some have criticized her openly in recent months. But she nevertheless remains a central figure in the uprising, a loud voice that has called for a peaceful struggle even as government loyalists have fired upon unarmed protesters, killing and injuring hundreds.