Three women from Africa and the Arab world won the Nobel Prize for Peace on Friday for their work in championing democracy and gender equality. The honor went to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemen's Tawakul Karman, The Washington Post reports. The trio were the first women to receive the awards since 2004 and many saw their recognition as a call to action for women's right across the globe.
Johnson Sirleaf became Africa's first elected female president, and although her reelection is not guaranteed, she has done a lot for her home country including securing the forgiveness of billions of debt. Gbowee was instrumental in the election of Johnson Sirleaf and as a peace activist helped put and end to the Liberian Civil War in 2003.
"We are dancing. This is the thing that we have been saying, progress has been made in Liberia," Bushuben Keita, a spokesperson for Johnson Sirleaf's party, said about the win, according to the Post. "We’ve come through 14 years of war and we have come to sustained peace."
Karman has been a vocal advocate for women's rights and democracy in Yemen where she is currently living in a tent as a way to demand changes. She is also the founder of the human rights group Women Journalists Without Chains, which hoped to secure freedom of expression and opinion in Yemen. In accepting the prize, Karman dedicated it to all the women in the Arab world.
According to The New York Times, there were about 250 people up for the Peace Prize, but many believed that given the recent events in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia where activists have used new technology to advocate change.
"Giving it to Yemen means giving it to the Arab Spring," Egyptian activist, Asmaa Mahfouz, told the Times.