Friday, October 07, 2011

women for peace

It's been an exciting week for Nobel Prizes, but I have to say I was getting a little disappointed to think we might go another year without any ladies being recognized for their contributions to society. Women had a record haul in 2009—five Nobel Prizes in four different categories—but 2010 was the 77th year in which all men and no women were awarded Nobels. What a pleasure, then, to wake up to the news that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gwobee, and Tawakul Karman had been awarded the Peace Prize for their work on the "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work."

Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, is the first and, currently, only female head of state in Africa. A former banker, she left the corporate world to participate in government in the mid-80s and has been fighting for peace ever since. Gbowee may be best known in the Western world as the woman who organized a sex strike against the men of Liberia during that country's brutal civil war, but she's also been a longtime leader of Women of Liberia Mass Action For Peace, which aims to unite females from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds in the common cause of ending violence and promoting women's participation in government. Karman is a human rights activist, member of Al-Islah (the Yemeni Congregation for Reform), and head of the group Women Journalists Without Chains. Among other accomplishments, Karman has played a significant role in organizing rallies and protests during this year's uprising in her native Yemen.

In case you were keeping score, Karman, Gbowee and Johnshon Sirleaf are the 99th, 100th, and 101st individuals to receive the Nobel Peace Prize—though only the 13th, 14th, and 15th women to be so honored. (I've just added them to my chart of all women who have ever received Nobels.) With today's announcement, I am hopeful that we'll continue to see more women—AND men—recognized for their efforts to promote the equal treatment of females around the world. Congrats to these remarkable ladies, and to all of this year's Nobel recipients!

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