Winning women hailed for courage

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The Oslo-based, five-member committee that selects winners of the Nobel Peace Prize hailed the courage of the three women they chose to honour with the prize this year. The committee hopes the prize will help “bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries.”

Tawakkul Karman was singled out for her courage in working for democracy in Yemen. PHOTO: Facebook

The committee announced Friday that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman would be jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their non-violent efforts to promote democracy, peace and women’s rights in their native countries of Liberia and Yemen.

The prize was not entirely non-controversial: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is running for re-election as president of Liberia and questions were immediately raised over whether winning the Peace Prize would give her an unfair advantage over her opponents. Sirleaf faces tough competition from more than a dozen rivals in the election scheduled for Tuesday.

Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland, though, said the committee doesn’t involved itself in domestic politics and couldn’t postpone its announcement that Sirleaf was a co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, because it’s always announced on the first Friday of October. Like Gbowee and Karman, the committee lauded Sirleaf’s courage in securing peace in Liberia, promoting economic and social development and strengthening the position of women. Gbowee was also cited for her role in helping end the lengthy war in Liberia, as well as her work to enhance the influence of women in West Africa during and after the war.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (left) and Leymah Gbowee, the Peace Prize winners from Liberia. PHOTO: Global Fund for Women

Speculation over possible prize winners this year had highlighted candidates from the European Union to people and social media involved in the “Arab Spring” uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East. “We have included the Arab Spring in this prize, but in a new context,” Jagland said when announcing the winners on Friday.

That context is in the form of Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, who Jagland singled out for showing courage “long before the revolution (in Yemen) started, long before the media were there and reporting on it.” He called Karman “incredibly strong, with three children at home, who didn’t just blog but was active (in seeking change) long before the blogging.” The choice of Karman, as a Muslim woman, also is meant to send a signal not least to Muslim men that women must be included and involved in emerging democracies. “This is an important theme we wanted to raise,” Jagland said.

Karman, Sirleaf and Gbowee have all played important roles in the struggles for peace and democracy in Liberia, in West Africa and in Yemen, Jagland said. And for women’s rights. The committee, he said, needed to choose those who they thought have done the most for peace and freedom and committee members settled on these women among the scores of candidates nominated and considered.

The women and their guests will all be invited to Oslo for the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on December 10.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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