Nobel Peace Prize awarded to women’s rights activists from Africa and Yemen

by Kaitlin Walker

The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to three women from Africa and Yemen for their nonviolent women’s rights activism, the New York Times reported.

 The $1.5 million prize will be split between Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first democratically elected female president, women’s rights and peace activist Leymah Gboweem, also of Liberia, and democracy activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen – the first Arab woman to win the peace prize, according to the Associated Press.

Karman, who is a member of a political party with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, played a leading role in organizing the protests against Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Peace and security have improved in civil-war torn Liberia since Sirleaf took office, and Gboweem spoke out against the use of rape as a weapon during the country’s civil war.

The Associated Press reported that by choosing Karman for the award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee was able to acknowledge the uprisings occurring throughout the Middle East and North Africa, without citing them alone.

Prize committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland called the oppression of women “the most important issue in the Arab World.”

The Committee said in a citation that they hope the women “will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.”