Sowing Seeds of Peace In Arab Spring


Graphic by Emily and Alaina


Women of the Muslim world garner Nobel nods.

One -fifth of Nobel Prizes ever awarded to women were awarded this year. After a seven-year hiatus between the last female recipient and the current recipients, the Nobel Peace Prize turns a new page. For the first time in history all three awardees this year were women: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Twakkol Karman.

Since its founding in 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to 124 laureates, 109 of them men and 15 of them women.

Four years after its founding, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a woman, Bertha Von Sutter, for her involvement in the Austrian Peace Society.

Sirleaf, Gbowee and Karman were awarded the prize for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work,” according to the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize press release.

Jeanie Laube, former Director of Community Service at Hockaday, attended the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony when her father received the award in 1970 for his efforts to free the world from hunger.

She says that times have changed since her father received the award over 40 years ago. The award now has increased political implications, as shown this year by the influence of the announcement of the recipients on the recent presidential election in Liberia and whether or not Sirleaf will be re-elected. It is predicted that the recent announcement will provide Sirleaf with an edge.

Laube believes that the prize was awarded to three women from the Arab world in order to make the Arab world “take notice that women should have equal rights.”

The three women recipients illustrate the world’s “new interest in equal rights for women,” Laube said. She hopes that the prize will act as an “avenue for awareness” about women’s rights and will help stimulate women to become proactive and practice humanitarian deeds.

“Gender should not restrict [the deserving] from receiving the prize,” said sophomore Kendall, also a member of the Human Rights Committee. She commends the recipients for their non-violent protests against the restrictions of women’s rights.

Committee member senior Tita says the Nobel Prize is a way to “praise the women’s rights movement.” “It also gives hope to women’s right movement and recognizes their accomplishments,” says Tita.

History teacher Tracy Walder, believes that “women are more involved in politics” than before and hopes that more women, because of their recent roles in the Arab spring, will start receiving the prize. She predicts that “women will continually become more prominent in politics and peace.”

Sirleaf, the current president of Liberia and a previous World Bank economist, has helped improve both peace and security during her presidency. Despite the high unemployment rates in Liberia, Sirleaf has led her people and ended 14 years of war, bringing peace to her country. Elected in 2005 as Africa’s first female president, she stated in her inaugural speech her hopes to “empower women in all areas of our national life.”

Gbowee, who has fasted and prayed for peace in Liberia, protested in 2002 to end the abuse of women and the fighting that ravaged Liberia. The following year Gbowee led women protestors to Monrovia’s City Hall protesting against the war. This protest led to the signing of the Accra Peace Accord which helped end the Liberian war. Currently, Gbowee is the executive director of the Women in Peace and Security Network which promotes peace, literacy and women in politics.

As referred to by the Yemen protestors the “mother of the revolution,” Karman participated in the uprisings that occurred in Yemen last spring. At the age of 32, Karman has fought to overthrow Yemen president Saleh and has been sent to jail numerous times. She is a journalist and human rights activist and has helped lead the women of Yemen away from tradition and encouraged them to voice their views.

Limited to a maximum of three recipients, the prize honors people who seek “fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses,” as stated in Alfred Nobel’s will.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” Laube said, “but hopefully the recent events will open a lot of doors for women and that more and more women will be out there doing humanitarian missions and helping others.”

– Alaina