Throughout the twentieth century and well into the twenty-first century, many women have fought for the struggles of women, women’s equality and women’s rights. The Nobel Prize committee has rewarded three such women with a Nobel Peace Prize for “their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights” as peacemakers. All three women represent oppressed women everywhere and their Nobel Prize awards signify that women should rise up against oppression and demand equality and peace.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karmen of Yemen were all honored for their bravery, determination and tireless efforts working for women’s rights and peace. The three were greeted with a thunderous applause and ovation as they received their Nobel Prize diplomas and gold medals.
Mrs. Sirleaf, the first woman in modern African history to be elected a head of state, addressed the crowd with a heartfelt statement regarding a commitment to change and peace for war torn societies ravaged by conflict. She has shown courage to commit to democracy and the rule of law in the face of opposition and economic hardships.
Mrs. Sirleaf noted the historical achievement of three women winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but viewed it as step in moving towards universal peace.
"Today’s decoration of three women with the highest universal Peace Prize must not be a passing historic event. We must look upon this as a milestone in the inexorable march toward the achievement of genuine and lasting peace," she said.
Ms. Gbowee, the founder of the Ghana based Women, Peace and Security Network Africa has been a vigilant campaigner and fighter against rape and oppression. She has shown a lot of courage and conviction standing up to warlords and leading protestors demanding the disarmament of fighters who continue to oppress, rape and torture women. Gbowee has literally put her body and life on the line in the name of democracy and peace.
'We used our pains, broken bodies and scarred emotions to confront the injustices and terror of our nation,' said Gbowee, as she addressed the Nobel audience.
Ms. Gbowee believes that the Nobel Prize award is recognition of the struggles and oppression women face worldwide, not only in Africa and Yemen, and calls on continued opposition to injustice.
“There is no time to rest until our world achieves wholeness and balance, where all men and women are considered equal and free,” she added.
Ms. Karmen, a Yemeni journalist, activist and founder of the advocacy group Women Journalists Without Chains, has been a symbol of revolution and change. Karmen has helped draw attention to the Arab Springs uprising who are not only rebelling against dictators, but also the traditional conservative Muslim mindset that have rationally oppressed and marginalized women. In her address, Karmen cited the Torah, the Koran and the Bible and called for the West to continue to support the Arab uprisings and to continue to support democracy and freedom movements worldwide.
“The democratic world, which has told us a lot about the virtues of democracy and good governance, should not be indifferent to what is happening in Yemen and Syria, and happened before that in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and happens in every Arab and non-Arab country aspiring for freedom,” she said.
All three women symbolize the courage, conviction and determination of women worldwide trying to create change through peaceful advocacy. All throughout recent history, there have been thousands of courageous women who have sacrificed and put their lives on the line to fight for freedom, democracy, peace, and oppression without recognition. The Nobel Prize committee’s recognition of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman reinforces the importance of such struggles to create equal rights for everybody worldwide. All three have been exceptional advocates for peace and the furthering of women’s rights. Both Sirleaf and Gbowee have tirelessly fought against oppression and conflict in Africa and for the elimination of brutality and torture against women. Karmen has stood up and supported peaceful demonstrations against dictators and the conservative Muslims views of women. The Nobel Prize symbolizes that the traditional injustice, dictatorship, rape and torture cannot be tolerated in modern society. These awards are a significant step towards creating universal values of peace and equality without fear of brutality, oppression or intolerance. The future looks brighter and brighter. Although the world has a long way to go to creating universal freedom, peace and equality, the recognition of Sirleaf, Gbowee and Karmen will go a long way towards achieving that goal. The work of Sirleaf, Gbowee and Karmen will continue to move forward, as will the work of millions of women that they will inspire. This gives everybody hope that if each of us shows the same amount of courage and conviction, we can make the world a better place.