In the 110-year history of the Nobel Peace Prize, most winners have been men. The first African woman to win was Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai, who was recognized in 2004 for her persistence in democracy, human rights and environmental conservation. But last week, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was honoured to three campaigning women: Yemen’s Tawakul Karman, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and her compatriot Leymah Gbowee. The women were awarded for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full peace-building work.
Last week’s announcement is another shining indication of the immense contribution from African women. Momentum is building around the investment of girls and women as an essential part in eliminating poverty and establishing global development. Research is proving that investments in women will impact economic growth and improve the well-being of communities.
Productivity will have gains. According to the 2012 World Bank, Gender Equality and Development Report, women now represent 40% of the global labour force. And advances in women’s health and education will create improved outcomes for the next generation. Empowering women to be actors in the social, economic and political arenas will create a varied representation of voices on local and national community levels.
“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,” stated Thorbjorn Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister and head of the Oslo-based Nobel committee.
Yemen’s most lively activist and mother of three, Tawakul Karman is advocating for freedom of expression and protest not only for women’s opportunities but also for the youth of Yemen. Winner of the Blue Ribbon Peace and Profiles in Courage awards, Leymah Gbowee serves as the executive director of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, based in Accra, Ghana, and her peace-building initiatives have spanned numerous parts of Liberia. The efforts of Gbowee greatly assisted in the 2005 election of fellow citizen President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Harvard graduate, incarcerated activist and exile from Liberia, has tirelessly fought for years against social inequalities in her country.
ONE congratulates these women on their individual and revolutionary marches for the leadership of women and their role in promoting peace, democracy and gender equality. This momentous occasion demonstrates the importance of women’s voices in creating purposeful political leadership and social change.
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