The Nobel Peace Prize 2011 was awarded jointly to three champions of women’s rights: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman. The women were rewarded "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work," according to a Nobel Committee press release.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said they hoped that by recognizing the efforts of these women, they would "help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent."
Ellen Johnson Sirleafis, of Liberia, is Africa’s first democratically elected female president. Since her inauguration in 2006, she has pushed forward with peace efforts in Liberia based on promoting economic and social development led in part by women.
Leymah Gbowee mobilized women across divided ethnic and religious lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure that women were allowed to participate in elections. She has since worked to enhance the influence of women since the end of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.
Tawakkul Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s right, democracy, and peace in Yemen.
Most of the recipients in the award’s 110-year history have been men. The last time a woman was honored was in 2004, when Wangari Maathai of Kenya was named as the laureate.
Last year’s peace prize went to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. In 2009, President Barack Obama was the recipient.