Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman
2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureates
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
The President of Liberia is Africa’s first female democratically elected head of state. The peace activist was elected in 2005 which created peace and economic progress in the country after a bloody civil war. She improved the conditions for women and secured the freedom of speech. Thus she became an example for other African leaders. Sirleaf was born in Liberia’s capital Monrovia. After studying economics in her home town she concluded her studies in the USA with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. She went back to Liberia and served as Minister of Finance 1979-80 but was deposed due to a coup d’etat. In exile she worked for the UN Development Program for Africa and the Development Fund for Women. Sirleaf lost the presidential election in 1997 against the corrupted Charles Taylor, but after he fled the country she won the election in 2005.
From 1990 a civil war raged in Liberia. Leymah Gbowee qualified as a trauma counsellor under the auspices of UNICEF and the Lutheran Church in order to look after traumatised child soldiers. In 2002 she set up the grass roots movement Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, which organised meetings where Christian and Muslim women promoted a message of non-violence. These protests helped to force president Taylor to sign the 2003 Peace Treaty. Gbowee then adopted a leading role in encouraging Liberian women to vote for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the 2005 presidential election. This support was vital in helping Johnson Sirleaf to win the election. In 2008 Gbowee had a leading role in the award-winning documentary film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” which was about the unique women’s struggle during the Liberian civil war.
The Yemenite journalist Tawakkol Karman, was the first female Nobel Peace Prize laureate from the Arabic world. She led several rallies in the protests against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, calling for democracy, freedom of expression and respect for women's rights. She founded the organization Women Journalists Without Chains and was consequently imprisoned and exposed to serious threats. Karman became a prominent figure during the Arabic Spring in 2011. She advocated understanding between Shias and Sunnis and between Islam and other religions. At the same she argued that women must be fully accepted in all sectors of community life and meant that Islam presents no obstacle to this.