The three women awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo this weekend are “linked by their commitment to change”, democracy, justice and peace, according to one of the proud winners. The president of Liberia and Nobel Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also praised the people of Norway for their brave response to the 22nd July terror attacks that shook the country.
Speaking directly to King Harald and Queen Sonja who were sat at the front of the 1,000-strong audience at Oslo’s City Hall, Sirleaf called the attacks “a deliberate assault on the very heart of your society. Yet, in the face of such adversity, the response at every level of public and private Norwegian life has been consistent with your historic adherence to the values of openness, integrity and justice,” she added. “For this, the world admires you and all of the citizens of this great country. I offer you the deepest sympathy of the people of Liberia for the loss of life and I extend to you our profound respect.”
Fellow peace activists Tawakkol Karman, of Yemen, and Leymah Roberta Gbowee, also of Liberia, were honoured alongside Sirleaf for their non-violent struggles against repression and war. Thorbjørn Jagland, the committee chairman, spoke of each woman in turn during his opening speech, before adding, “We thank you for the hope you awaken in all of us.”
Talking specifically of Sirleaf, who has overcome civil war and introduced democracy in Liberia since becoming president in 2006, Jagland said, “few other persons better satisfy the criteria for receiving the Peace Prize mentioned in Alfred Nobel’s will.”
He credited Leymah Gbowee with the same, describing her as “the trauma specialist who switched from treating war victims to working for peace.” She is recognised as mobilising thousands of Liberian women to protest against war and violence in the country.
Finally, Tawakkol Karman, who at the age of 32 is the youngest person to ever receive the prize, was described as being “exposed to serious threats” when she was imprisoned for fighting injustice in Yemen. “She organised peaceful sit-ins and information campaigns,” Jagland said, and has not stopped in her “campaigns for democracy, women’s rights and tolerance. She advocates understanding between Shias and Sunnis and between Islam and other religions,” he added.