New York, NY—The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) welcomes the news that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, peace activist Leymah Gbowee, also of Liberia, and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen have been awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Each of these women has been working tirelessly to bring peace and stability to her country. They are shining examples of women’s vital role in conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace-building.
The WRC was honored to meet with President Johnson Sirleaf in 2006, soon after she became president of Liberia, while it was looking at education in the country post conflict. Liberia continues to be a beacon in Africa due to concerted efforts to strengthen its new democratic structures, address the scars of its long conflict and rebuild its health and educational infrastructure. While much remains to be done in Liberia, leaders such as President Johnson Sirleaf and Ms. Gbowee continue to inspire and lead women to participation in public life. Ms. Karman also played a catalytic role in Yemen’s demonstrations urging democracy and women’s rights. Her fearlessness in championing freedom of expression, democracy and women’s rights under difficult circumstances was rightly noted by the Committee.
By choosing three women as recipients of this prize, the Nobel Committee has sent a strong message about the importance of recognizing the contributions that women have brought to peace processes and the rebuilding of societies at local and national levels. Women have played key roles in peace and reconciliation processes including those in Northern Ireland, Liberia, Rwanda and South Africa. They have also been leading advocates of the use of nonviolent means to solve political crises. Despite these accomplishments, women’s voices are often marginalized in formal political processes and post-conflict reconstruction. Women’s participation is crucial at all levels and stages in averting war and rebuilding after conflict. They possess a unique perspective and specific set of concerns that must be represented to ensure disarmament and reconciliation are sustainable. Women must have opportunities to participate in critical aspects of peace and security, such as ending impunity for conflict-related sexual violence and addressing the needs of women and children as war-torn communities are rebuilt.
WRC works to empower women who have been displaced by armed conflict as leaders on the path to sustainable peace. We monitor the situation of women and children and hold UN member states, donor governments and the international community responsible for making sure that refugees and internally displaced women are given a voice in peace processes. WRC has been active in Liberia working to alleviate gender-based violence and advise on livelihood and educational opportunities for women and girls.
We congratulate President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman on their accomplishments and their pioneering peace work and applaud the Nobel Committee for highlighting the necessity of women’s role in peace building.