Three women working towards equality win the Nobel Peace Prize

Pics via NYT. Left to right: Leymah Gbowee, pic by Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, pic by Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images; Tawakul Karman, pic by Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

This is pretty friggin’ awesome:

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her compatriot and “peace warrior” Leymah Gbowee and Yemen’s Arab Spring activist Tawakkul Karman won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The three women will share the 2011 award “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work,” Norwegian Nobel Committee president Thorbjoern Jagland said in his announcement.

“We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” he added.

The New York Times noted that they are the first women to win the prize since Wangari Maathai in 2004, who passed away just last week.

This just makes me happy, not just for the recognition that Johnson Sirleaf, Gbowee and Karman are getting for the incredible impact they’ve made in their countries, but to publicly uphold those working towards gender equality further validates these efforts as critical work to be done in the world. As Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg added, “I see this prize as a recognition of women all over the world who are fighting for women’s rights, who are fighting for democracy and human rights, and a recognition of the vital work women do in peace and reconciliation work.” Awesome.

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  • Emily

    On the one hand — great. All three women clearly deserve it.

    On the other hand — didn’t they each deserve it as INDIVIDUALS? Perhaps on two or three consecutive years? The Nobel committee doesn’t tend to lump men together because they all, y’know, advanced men.

    These women are from two different countries, doing different work. When the Nobel Peace Prize is split between people, it’s usually because those people were working together and shared credit for a common achievement (e.g. Sadat and Begin). Not because they share genitalia.

    • JN

      If you look at how they reward Nobel Prizes in other categories, you will see that they do lump people together in regards to theme. This year for Medicine it was three individuals who advanced the field of understanding the Innate Immune system through understanding the types of receptors and/or types of cells. Although different research altogether, it still fits in the overall theme. I don’t know if this is unusual for the Peace Prize, but to have three individuals be nominated for a Nobel for the science categories is not unheard of.

      Although you have a valid point, I think its not that they all have the same sex organs is why they are nominated but truly because of the work and how it has changed their world locally and globally, much like how the body of work the Nobel Laureate scientists generate revolutionize their particular field.

  • Emily

    The Nobel committee definitely awards prizes to people working in a very specific sub-specialty, as you point out. But “equality” or “human rights in some specific country” aren’t specific sub-specialities! In fact, those are such vague themes that they describe almost EVERY Nobel Peace Prize winner. And although the Peace Prize has often been awarded to pairs of people, they have all previously worked together towards ending the same particular conflict.

    As far as I know, there’s really not much in common between the work being done in Yemen and Liberia, except that both are important. If there is a commonality, I’d love to hear about it — I may well be missing a nuance of their work together.

    In all of the (justified) celebration of this award, I haven’t seen anyone else speaking about this strange lumping-together of women doing disparate work in disparate places. Feministing, please help me out! Am I missing an important link between their work, or is this as sexist as it seems?

  • detrick

    I find it amazing that three African women won the Nobel Peace Prize for women’s equality. I believe that this is a rather large step for both women as a whole and Africa. The women that won this prize are huge role models for all girls around the world. They show that you can have an effect on the world ever if is such a huge place. You can come from a small background and still make a difference. I really agree with the quote that says that we cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace unless women are able to have the same rights as men. Equality is a necessary to obtain stability within and between countries. I hope that by these women winning the Nobel Peace Prize, people will start to understand the necessity of women having equality. I think that people in the United States do not realize or care to know how women are treated in other countries. We assume because women are mostly treated equal here, they are treated equal everywhere. I hope this event makes people more aware of women’s situations across the world.