The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three women. That’s right, women. They were recognized for their role in promoting peace and gender equality in places where women’s rights and democracy seem like foreign concepts. Two of the award recipients are from Liberia. One is the country’s first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
While in office, Sirleaf has worked to reduce Liberia’s debt, promote peaceful democracy, and investigate those involved in the country’s civil wars. The second recipient is her countrywoman Leymah Gbowee. Gbowee is the feisty and outspoken head of the Women for Peace movement, and was instrumental in galvanizing the Liberian women’s movement to stand up against the rampant violence of the Liberian Civil Wars. Together with hundreds of other brave and inspiring women peacebuilders in Liberia, who risked their own lives to end the butchering of their children and the escalating sexual violence, Leymah helped bring about the end of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003 conflict and forced the male negotiators to reach a peace agreement.
The third recipient is Tawakkol Karman. At thirty-two years old, she is the head of Women Journalists Without Chains, which has been credited with helping bring revolution to Yemen, earning her the nickname “The Mother of Revolution.”
This is big news, not just for the regions where these amazing women work, but for women everywhere. The previous female Nobel Peace Prize recipient, the late Wangari Maathai, was awarded in 2004—seven years ago. She was the first woman to receive the prize in 110 years. Awarding the prize to Sirleaf, Gbowee and Karman is definitely a step in the right direction. They have been fighting for peaceful change in an area where women have been treated like second-class citizens for far too long. By recognizing the efforts of women peacebuilders, who work tirelessly and mostly invisibly in conflict zones around the world, the Nobel Peace Prize is validating the critical and undervalued work that they do. Congratulations to these three very inspiriting women and to the thousands of women peacebuilders who deserve the recognition of this prize! Of course it would be great if each of the women got their own prize but considering the history of prize recipients, splitting the prize in three is an indication of making up for lost time. Let’s hope that this is only the beginning of honoring women peacebuilder superstars, and that they will hold at least half the prizes within another 100 years.