This past Friday, October 7th, 2011, the Nobel Peace Prize, which has been called “the world’s most prestigious prize” was awarded to three women. “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.” (Source: official site of The Nobel Peace Prize)
Sirleaf, Gbowee and Karman, the winning threesome, are now included as individuals in an elite group of only 15 women ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in the last 110 years, since it was first awarded in 1901. Karman also ranks as the first Arab woman to win the distinguished honor. Each Nobel Peace Prize laureate receives a medal, a personal diploma, and prize money. This year’s three winners will share $1.5 million.
Interestingly, it was a book written by a woman, Lay Down Your Arms (published 1889), that inspired Alfred Nobel to establish his Peace Prize. The book’s author, Austrian peace activist Baroness Bertha von Suttner, eventually received the award herself in 1905, making her the first woman Nobel Peace Prize winner.
2011 Nobel Peace Prize Winning Women in Brief:
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72 and Harvard educated, is the President of Liberia and Africa’s first democratically elected female president. Since her inauguration in 2006, she has contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women. Sirleaf is running for a second term this Tuesday, October 11.
Leymah Gbowee, 39, is a Liberian peace activist who mobilized and organized women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, to fight against the power of Liberia’s warlords, and to ensure women’s participation in elections. She has since worked to enhance the influence of women in West Africa during and after war. Gbowee is the Director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa.
Tawakkul Karman, 32, is a mother of three, outspoken journalist and human rights activist. She has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen. Tawakkul heads the human rights group Women Journalists Without Chains and has been a leading figure in the protests against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s authoritarian regime.
The Nobel Peace Prize:
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually by the Norwegian Nobel Committee according to guidelines laid down in Alfred Nobel’s will. The Peace Prize is one of five prizes that have been awarded annually since 1901 under the auspices of the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm for outstanding contributions in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace.
According to Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize is to go to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.