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Nobel honours African, Arab women for peace

Nobel honours African, Arab women for peace

Liberians Johnson-Sirleaf, Gbowee and Yemeni Karman share Nobel prize as panel emphasises on equal rights for women being essential to peace.

October 8, 2011 8:22 by

“…I am worried about what is going on in several of these countries.”

“So this is a clear message to those who are trying to build democracy — that you have to take the women on board.”
Islamists have emerged strongly from the shadow of secular autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and are well represented in opposition movements in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere. Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister, said he was not criticising Islam but warning against abusing religion to oppress women.

The trio named by the Norwegian committee, whose other four members are all women, follow only a dozen women among 85 men to have previously won the prize over its 110-year history.

The panel hoped the award would help end “the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realise the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent”.

The committee said all three women were rewarded from the bequest left by Swedish dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”.

“(This) is a recognition that while women pay the highest price in conflicts, they are equally leaders in peacemaking and rebuilding their nations,” said Graca Machel, a global advocate for women’s and children’s rights and the wife of former South African president and Nobel peace laureate Nelson Mandela.

“What has been acknowledged by this award is the leadership of women who insisted on coming out of conflict into peace … Their achievements show us how women in leadership roles can be powerful agents of change,” said Mary Robinson, a former Irish president and former UN high commissioner for human rights.

The prize was less controversial than in the last two years. In 2010, China was outraged and imposed sanctions on Norway after the award went to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo.

The award to Barack Obama in 2009, just months after he became US president, amazed many, not least the new occupant of the White House. It recognised, among other things, promises he made of promoting democracy in the Arab world.

Many Arabs were disappointed by what they saw as Obama’s slowness in switching U.S. allegiance this year from rulers like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Yemen’s Saleh, an ally against al Qaeda, to the crowds of demonstrators trying to oust them.

Obama said on Friday the 2011 award was “a reminder that when we empower women around the world, everyone is better off, that countries and cultures that respect the contributions of women inevitably end up being more successful than those that don’t.”

Obama’s predecessor, as both a Democratic president and a Peace Prize laureate, Jimmy Carter urged him to make good on promises, including about democracy in the Middle East.

“It was given primarily because of some of the commitments he had made verbally,” Carter told Reuters on Thursday. “I hope that some of those promises will be realized.”

Among those who welcomed this year’s award was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, viewed as the most powerful woman in Europe, who said: “This will hopefully encourage many women, but also many men, around the world to campaign for…


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