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“We can not achieve…”

“We can not achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society”
– Thorbjorn Jagland, head of the Oslo-based Nobel committee, reading the citation given to Sirleaf, Gbowee and Karman for their nonviolent promotion of peace, democracy and gender equality.

The women’s movement around the world gained recognition when it was announced Thursday, October 6th that the Nobel Peace Prize was being awarded to three women for their individual efforts to promote peace, democracy, and gender equality in their respective countries.

The three women recipients, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman, will each receive the Peace Prize gold metal and share the $1.5 million dollar prize for these efforts. According to the New York Times, this is the first time any woman has received this prestigious award since 2004.

According to the press release from the Nobel Prize website, Sirleaf – the first women elected president in Africa – has committed herself since her 2006 inauguration to “securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women”. In an article in the New York Times, it stated that Sirleaf recently told a Paris-based magazine that she did not “want Africa to return to the men’s club” and anticipated that “women would take over in more African countries”.

Meanwhile, Gbowee, who heads the Women Peace and Security Network (WPSN) in Ghana, is recognized for her efforts to organize the women of war-torn Liberia, despite religious and ethnic differences. Gbowee and these women protested the conflict between former Liberian president Charles Taylor and the rebels for fourteen years, from 1989 until peace was achieved in 2003. According to the BBC News, Gbowee continues to counsel women and young girls who have been affected by the violence in Liberia as well as the Congo. In addition, the Nobel Prize press release states that she has worked to ensure the votes of women in the country as well.
As a pro-democracy activist and head of the Women Journalist Without Chains, Karman has strived to protect the right of expression and free speech for women and other journalist in Yemen. According the Nobel Prize press release, Karman “has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.” Despite being arrested during a recent protest earlier this year, she continues to lead numerous nonviolent protests against the Yemeni government. According to an article on Aljazeera’s English website, Karman had also inspired the rising in Tunisian.
Though these women have made giant strides towards equality and democracy in Middle Eastern and African countries, we must remind ourselves again that this movement towards peace, democracy and gender equality has yet to be achieved universally. Discrimination, harassment, violence and other injustices against women are still a reality for some women around the world and prevent us from obtaining the “developments at all levels of society.” Nonetheless, these three women are true examples of what non-violent protest and actions can do to secure and protect women and their rights, as well as change a society for the better.

To watch the Associated Press news package on the 2011 Nobel Peace Price, visit


Val Armstrong
Pierce Arrow Blogger, Women in Leadership

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