Liberia leader wins Nobel Peace Prize

2011-10-07 10:11

The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen for their work on women’s rights.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee honoured the three women “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Sirleaf (72) is a Harvard-trained economist who became Africa’s first democratically elected female president in 2005. She faces a presidential poll this month.

She was seen as a reformer and peacemaker in her country when she took office. But recently, opponents in the presidential campaign have accused her of buying votes and using government funds to campaign. Her camp denies the charges.

Liberia was ravaged by civil wars for years until 2003.

The country is still struggling to maintain a fragile peace with the help of UN peacekeepers.

Liberian peace activist Gbowee, organised a group of Christian and Muslim women to challenge Liberia’s warlords.

In 2009 she won a Profile in Courage Award, an honour named for a 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book written by John F. Kennedy, for her work in emboldening women in Liberia.

Karman (32) is a mother of three. She headed the Women Journalists Without Chains, a human rights group for journalist.

She had been a leading figure in organising protests in Yemen that opposed the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and which kicked off in late January.

Her father is a former legal affairs minister under Saleh. She is a journalist and member of Islah party, an Islamic party.

The prize committee said: “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.”

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