Nobel Peace Prize 2011
The Nobel Peace Prize 2011 was awarded to three women
"For their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work".
Who are these women? Let's get to know them better:
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: an economist and politician, she is the actual President of Liberia. Born in Monrovia, she studied economics and accounts at the College of West Africa. Aged 17, she married James Sirleaf and moved with him to the United States where she achieved an accounting degree at Madison Business College, in Wisconsin, and a degree in economics from the University of Colorado. Sirleaf later studied economics and public policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government gaining a Master of Public Administration. She later got back to native Liberia to work under the government of William Tolbert.
Besides her brilliant studying career, she's also had a full working life: Sirleaf worked as Assistant Minister of Finance under Tolbert's administration. After the 1980 military coup in which Tolbert was assassinated, she worked for the new government as President of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment, but left after her public critique of Governer Doe and the People's Redemption Council for their management of the country.
Sirleaf moved to Washington D.C. and served the World Bank, later she arrived in Nairobi and was named Vice President of the African Regional Office of Citibank. In 1992, Sirleaf was first Assistant Administrator, then Director, of the United Nations Development Programme's Regional Bureau for Africa, a charge she left for the Liberian presidential elections. During her saty at the UN, she was designated by the Organization of African Unity to investigate the Rwandan genocide, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue and one of two international experts selected by UNIFEM to investigate and report on the effect of conflict on women and women’s roles in peace building. She was the initial Chairperson of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa and a visiting Professor of Governance at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).
As a President, Ellen Sirleaf made education free and compulsory for all elementary school children and she issued a Freedom of Information Bill.
She is a wife and a mother of four sons as well as grandmather of eight nephews.
Leymah Gbowee: born in Liberia, she studied an achieved a Master in Arts in Conflict Transformation. She is a peace activist and head of the movement Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. The movement, which saw women singing and praying in markets and being engaged in sex strike, helped womwn become a political force achieving peace in Liberia.
Under Leymah Gbowee's leadership, the women succeeded in meeting with President Charles Taylor and extract a promise from him to attend peace talks in Ghana. Gbowee led a delegation of Liberian women to Ghana to keep pressuring on the warring factions during the peace process. They staged a silent protest outside the Presidential Palace, in Accra, bringing about an agreement for peace.
She also organized the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET).
Their movement brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003 and led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia, the first African nation with a female president.
She is the executive director of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa and acts to build relationships across the West African sub-region in support of women’s capacity to prevent, avert, and end conflicts. She is a founding member and coordinator of the Women in Peacebuilding Program/West African Network for Peacebuilding. She also works as the commissioner-designate for the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Tawakkul Karman is a Yemeni mother of three children, a wife, a politician and human rights activist, head of the Women Journalists Without Chains group she founded in 2005 with the purpose to achieve freedom of opinion, expression, and democratic rights.
During the ongoing 2011 Yemeni protests she set up student rallies in Sana'a to protest against Ali Abdullah Saleh and his government. She was arrested once, and released on parole. She then led another protest calling for "day of rage" similar to that of the 2011 Egyptian and Tunisian revolution. She was re-arrested.
Her article "Yemen's Unfinished Revolution" appeared on the New York Times, she assailed the United States and Saudi Arabia for their support for the "corrupt" Saleh regime in Yemen in because they "used their influence to ensure that members of the old regime remain in power and the status quo is maintained. American counterterrorism agencies and the Saudi government have a firm grip on Yemen at the moment. It is they, not the Yemeni people and their constitutional institutions, that control the country." She also criticised American intervention in Yemen. She also said that democracy in Yemen would depend on the attitude of the United States to accede to democracy. She then called for "American officials to engage with the leaders of Yemen’s democracy movement and abandon their misplaced investment in the old regime’s security apparatus, which has killed more innocent women and children than terrorists...We only ask that you respect international standards on human rights and the Yemeni people’s rights to freedom and justice. On behalf of many of the young people involved in Yemen’s revolution, I assure the American people that we are ready to engage in a true partnership. Together, we can eliminate the causes of extremism and the culture of terrorism by bolstering civil society and encouraging development and stability".
This is one more example of how women can make a difference in their lives and communities. Their passion and strength, the courage to go against the system and being on the front line sometimes risking to die must be a model to us. Inspiring!