The Nobel Peace Prize has been shared by three women, including Africa’s first democratically elected female president, a Liberian peace activist, and a woman who faced down Yemen’s authoritarian regime.
The honor, which comes with a 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) prize, was awarded to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, peace activist Leyma Gbowee (also from Liberia), and Yemeni democracy campaigner Tawakkul Karman. Karman is the first Arab woman to win the prize.
The three women were recognized for their contributions to securing women’s rights, which the Nobel committee stated was fundamental to world peace. Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told the press:
“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.”
The 32-year-old Karman has dedicated her prize to those who protested in the anti-authoritarian revolts in Yemen, the latest uprisings in the Arab Spring. Karman is head of human rights group Women Journalists without Chains. Fellow activists in Yemen have dubbed her “Iron Woman, “The Mother of Revolution,” and “The Spirit of the Yemeni Revolution.”
Sirleaf, 72, became Africa’s first democratically elected female president in 2005. This came after she lost in 1997 elections to warlord-president Charles Taylor, who many believe was voted in by a intimidated fearful electorate.
The third winner, Liberian civilian Leyma Gbowee, has long campaigned against rape and for womens’ rights. In 2003, she led a group of hundreds of Christian and Muslim women in a protest that demanded the swift disarmament of fighters who preyed on women throughout Liberia during its 14-year civil war.