Africas first democratically elected female president,a Liberian campaigner against rape and a woman who stood up to Yemens autocratic regime won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in recognition of the importance of womens rights in the spread of global peace.
The 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) award was split three ways between Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,womens rights activist Leyma Gbowee from the same country and democracy activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen the first Arab woman to win the prize.
Tawakkul Karman is from Taiz in southern Yemen that is a hotbed of resistance against Salehs regime,and now lives in Sanaa. She is a journalist and member of Islah,an Islamic party.
Long an advocate for human rights and freedom of expression in Yemen,she has been campaigning for Salehs ouster since 2006.
Thorbjoern Jagland,who heads the Norwegian Nobel Committee,said it was difficult to find a leader of the Arab Spring revolts,especially among the many bloggers who played a role in energising the protests,and noted that Karmans work started before the Arab uprisings.
Many years before the revolutions started she stood up against one of the most authoritarian and autocratic regimes in the world, he told reporters.
Liberia was ravaged by civil war for years until 2003. The drawn-out conflict that began in 1989 left about 2,00,000 people dead and displaced half the countrys population of 3 million. The country created to settle freed American slaves in 1847 is still struggling to maintain a fragile peace with the help of UN peacekeepers.
Sirleaf,72,has held top regional jobs at the World Bank,the UN and within the Liberian government.
In elections in 1997,she ran second to warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor,who many claimed was voted into power by a fearful electorate. Though she lost by a landslide,she rose to national prominence and earned the nickname,Iron Lady. She went on to become Africas first democratically elected female leader in 2005.
She is running for re-election this month and opponents in the presidential campaign have accused her of buying votes and using government funds to campaign.
This gives me a stronger commitment to work for reconciliation, Sirleaf said Friday from her home in Monrovia. Liberians should be proud.
Buttons from her presidential campaign say it all: Ellen Shes Our Man.
Gbowee,who organised a group of Christian and Muslim women to challenge Liberias warlords,was honoured for mobilising women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia,and to ensure womens participation in elections.
Gbowee has long campaigned for the rights of women and against rape. In 2003,she led hundreds of female protesters through Monrovia to demand swift disarmament of fighters who preyed on women throughout Liberia during 14 years of near-constant civil war.
Gbowee works in Ghanas capital as the director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa.
I know Leymah to be a warrior daring to enter where others would not, said Gbowees assistant,Bertha Amanor.