Competing with this year’s record number of 241 Nobel Peace Prize nominees, including Assange and WikiLeaks, the Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, Afghan human rights activist Sima Samar and the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the prize was won and shared by three women: the Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman.
They were recognized for their non-violent struggle for women’s safety and women’s human rights and for participating in peace- and democracy-building work. The award was also intended to emphasize the important role of women in building peace and democracy.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first democratically elected president in Africa. 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 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 worked since to enhance the influence of women in West Africa during and after war. 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.
So far, only 12 women have won the Nobel Peace Prize: Bertha von Suttner, Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch, Betty Williams, Mairead Corrigan, Mother Theresa, Alva Myrdal, Aung San Suu Kyi, Rigoberta Menchú, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi and Wangari Maathai.