October 13, 2011
Three women from Africa and the Arab world.
They’ve all said... enough.
The men have done enough.
Leymah Gbowee, a key organizer of the non-violent campaign in Liberia, shares the Nobel Peace Prize of 2011 with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, the first woman to be elected president in modern Africa, and journalist Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, the first Arab woman to win the prize.
In 2002, Leymah Gbowee, along with Comfort Freeman, presidents of two different Lutheran Churches, organized the Peacebuilding Network.
They, along with many other women of Liberia, both Christian and Muslim, persevered not only in witnesses for peace, but began to engage directly in conflict mediation.
"This [award]," she said, " is a huge recognition of the struggle of our women."
It’s been working.
A direct result is the election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, who has made it a priority to include women in Liberia’s reconstruction, from head of the ministries of commerce, justice, finance, youth and sports to gender and development.
She’s negotiated debt relief, boosted school enrollment by 40 percent, opened an investigation into corruption and started the truth and reconciliation commission to address crimes committed during the civil war.
''I look at those societies where women have been given the opportunity and those are the societies that succeed,'' she said.
Loathed by extremists, she has become the international public face of the 2011 Yemeni uprising that was part of the Arab Spring.
''I discovered that wearing the veil is not suitable for a woman who wants to work in activism and the public domain,'' she said. ''People need to see you, to associate and relate to you. It is not stated in my religion to wear the veil; it is a traditional practice, so I took it off.''
Creative non-violent direct action.
It couldn't happen at a better time.