Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman have been named as this year’s recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. In announcing the award, the Committee underlined the importance of women in the securing of peace and stated that:
In October 2000, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325. The resolution for the first time made violence against women in armed conflict an international security issue. It underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is the current President of Liberia. She is Africa’s only female Head of State, was named by Forbes magazine as the 62nd most powerful women in the world and by the Guardian as one of the most important women in politics in the world. President Sirleaf, was first elected President of Liberia in 2005, following the civil war, under President Charles Taylor, which had claimed thousands of lives and had been part of the wider war in the region, including other states such as Sierra Leone. President Sirleaf has overseen the transition to peace in Liberia and has been heavily involved in securing debt relief from multilateral agencies such as the IMF and states such as the United States . An issue discussed in another post here. In 2006, President Sirleaf established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia, its final report, recommended that President Sirleaf, among a long list of others, should be barred from involvement in Liberian politics due to connections with the civil war. President Sirleaf, who is running for re-election this year, rejected the call for these bans as she argued this would be a violation of the due process rights of those listed by the Commission. This position was subsequently supported in a case before the Liberian Supreme Court. The Nobel Committee, in announcing the award said,
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is 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.
Leymah Gbowee is also from Liberia. Ms. Gbowee helped establish the peace movement, Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, that brought about an end to the second civil war in Liberia, that was followed with the election of President Sirleaf. The women, who numbered in their thousands, wore white t-shirts to symbolise peace and became a political force against violence and the Taylor Government. They have carried on their quest for peace across other states in the region. The group founded by Ms Gblowee, is part of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. The Noble Committee stated that,
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. She has since worked to enhance the influence of women in West Africa during and after war.
Tawakul Karmen is from Yemen and has led the movement to remove President Saleh from office. A journalist, Ms Karmen, has been vocal in her criticism of President’s Saleh’s regime, has advocated more freedom for the press and has, over a long period of time, organised sit-ins to call for the release of political prisoners. Ms. Karmen, herself, has been imprisoned a number of times, most recently in March. Ms. Karmen has also called for the extension of all rights to women in Yemen. Previously, she was nominated for the US State Department’s Woman of Peace award. In awarding Ms. Karmen the award the Committee stated that:
In the most trying circumstances, both before and during the “Arab spring”, Tawakkul Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.
The Guardian newspaper has compiled some statistics regarding the prize, including, tellingly, that more men, and in fact institutions, have won the award, than women and that is has only been split three ways once before, in 1994, though on several occasions, it has been split between two recipients. Yet, generally it is two participants in the same process such as John Hume and David Trimble, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, and Mohammad Anwar Al-Sadat and Menachem Begin. What appears to unite these women is their sex and involvement in peace, though the latter is naturally a pre-requisite for the prize. Perhaps, in referencing the Security Council Resolution, the Committee were attempting to thematically make the prize a recognition of the role of women in peace processes and these three political activists represent the important political contribution which are made by women in such incidences. However, this should not understate the important role that each of these women have individually played, that would make them worthy recipients in their own right. Previous posts on the award are available here and here.