“It sends out a message to the Arab world that you can’t ignore women if you want a democratic society.”
So said Thorbjørn Jagland in his announcement of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize to 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.”
It certainly fulfils Jagland’s cryptic clue earlier this week when he said the prize would go to “Not necessarily a big name, but a big mission — something important for the world.”
The prize also makes Nobel history this is the first time ever that a Nobel Prize in any area has been shared between three women.
As the press release says Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Africa’s first democratically elected female president in 2006, and “has contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women.” Leymah Gbowee “mobilized and organized 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.” And Tawakkul Karman “has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.”
You can see Sirleaf talking about some of the leadership challenges a woman faces in this video from the TEDWomen conference, or watch this AlJazeera interview below:
Here’s a video of Leymah Gbowee accepting the 2009 JFK Profile in Courage Award
And here’s a Guardian profile of Tawakkul Karman from earlier this year, plus an article Karman wrote for The Guardian’s Comment is Free section. When Jagland was asked by the press after the announcement why the committee selected an activist from Yemen, he said “she showed courage long before the revolution started’, and that it was “a signal to the whole Arab world that one cannot set aside the women if one wants to build democracies”.