Nobel Peace Prize Honors 3 Women for Gender Equality, Peace Advocacy

October 7, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

MARGARET WARNER: The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was announced today. It recognized three fighters for peace and women’s rights in Africa and the Middle East.

Two of the women are Liberian, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and peace activist Leymah Gbowee. The third is Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, a pro-democracy campaigner.

The chairman of the five-member Norwegian Nobel panel made the announcement in Oslo.

THORBJORN JAGLAND, Norwegian Nobel Committee: We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.

MARGARET WARNER: Sirleaf became Africa’s first democratically elected female president in 2006 on the heels of 14 years of civil war. She faces a hotly contested re-election next Tuesday.

In 2009, she spoke to the NewsHour about the women she’d named to senior ministerial posts and how they govern differently.

ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF, Liberian president: I have found all the women in the strategic positions that they hold have been so dedicated and committed and honest. I mean, they really go to the task, you know, with all that it takes. They go that extra mile.

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU, peace activist: That says it all.

MARGARET WARNER: An earlier African winner of the Peace Prize, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, was jubilant today at Sirleaf’s award.

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: She deserves it many times over. She’s brought stability to a place that was going to hell.

MARGARET WARNER: Leymah Gbowee has made her own contribution to Liberia, rallying women in 2003 to protest for an end to the violence. She spoke today in New York.

LEYMAH GBOWEE, Nobel Peace Prize winner: Women have an important role as negotiators, as generals in the army. Women have important roles in peace and security issues, and I think this is an acknowledgement of that.

MARGARET WARNER: The third honoree, Tawakkul Karman, has been a leader in the protests in Yemen against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They began in late January, part of the wave of revolts sweeping the Arab world.

Today, she spoke from the tent she’s been living in since February as part of a sit-in.

TAWAKKUL KARMAN, Nobel Peace Prize winner (through translator): I am very, very happy about this prize. I give the prize to the Arab revolutions and to the peaceful youth revolution in Yemen and the Yemeni people. I also dedicate this prize to the martyrs and wounded people from peaceful revolutions.

MARGARET WARNER: The three women will receive their awards at a ceremony in Oslo in December.