A Noble Trinity

It’s been a while since a woman has won the Nobel Peace Prize. But it seems like those years that didn’t see a woman holding the golden medallion are being compensated for in 2011: three women from Liberia and Yemen will receive the peace prize for their inexorable efforts towards nonviolence, democracy, and gender equality. As the fruits of their efforts are already seen in their countries, this new development should further inspire women’s rights movements the world over. So, let’s meet the people who’ve proven themselves more than worthy of recognition, the Nobel kind or otherwise.

One of these women is president of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is the first and the only female president in Africa, and was crucial in putting a stop to years of violence stemming from civil wars (arguably her most significant victory.) Partly due to her strict enforcement of laws and her perseverance to see nothing short of a peaceful country, Sirleaf was able to unite the people of war-ton Liberia. Yet what leaves an impression on me is the amount of faith Liberians invested in Sirleaf, though I doubt her confident persona was overwhelmed by the support she elicited- she knew what she had done for Liberia as she stated “We can go to sleep in the night and not be afraid.”  (from The Guardian.) When someone can say that about a nation in which more than half the women were sexually assaulted, you know they’re the real deal;  Sirleaf’s arrival instilled new hope that Liberia could rise above destruction.

The second award recipient and Sirleaf’s partner in (ending) crime, Leymah Gbowee is known for her movement Women for Peace, through which she strives to make Muslim and Christian women cooperate, working against Liberian warlords. Gbowee puts into practice the ‘two birds with one stone’ philosophy- she’s managed over the years to erase the metaphoric lines between religions, and the marginalized role of women in politics, progressing the ‘fight’ for a peaceful Liberia. What she wants out of the Nobel publicity though, is that women and their “unique skills” be recognized as invaluable. And she credits her success to the commitment of the members of her movement and to the Liberian people.

Finally, long before the chain of revolts in the Middle Eastern and African countries, Yemeni journalist Tawakkol Karman was already taking a stand for democracy. With her powerful group Women Journalists without Chains, she’s been protesting President Saleh’s regime since 2007 through street protests and anti-government sit-ins. Her tenacity remains, due to a fervent desire to see a democratic Yemen; Karman wants Saleh and his government to resign, and fortunately it doesn’t seem like she’ll back away until it happens.

While the Nobel Prize has helped the ideas of these women gain a wider audience, regardless of this award, they’ve each built their trust and credibility through years of perseverance in doing something peacefully for the people of their countries. Their achievements can speak for themselves, and right now it’s their personal resilient and upstanding characters that are being celebrated- although they might say otherwise.

-Shaakya Vembar


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