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Liberian, Yemeni Women Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

  • Al Pessin

Nobel Peace Prize winners Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, left, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, center, and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, right, take the stage at City Hall in in Oslo, Norway, December 10, 2011.

Nobel Peace Prize winners Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, left, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, center, and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, right, take the stage at City Hall in in Oslo, Norway, December 10, 2011.

Two women from Liberia and one from Yemen were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize Saturday for their efforts to peacefully bring change to their countries. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman received their awards at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

Royal trumpeters heralded the beginning of the annual ceremony, as Norway's royal family and this year's Nobel laureates entered the hall.

The Nobel Committee chose the three women for their activism in the cause of peaceful change in their countries. But President Sirleaf said it really belongs to many more oppressed women around the world.

"This award belongs to the people whose aspirations we have the privilege to represent and whose rights we have the obligation to defend," said Sirleaf. "History will judge us not by what we say in this moment in time, but what we do next to lift the lives of our countrymen and women."

Her fellow-Liberian, Leymah Gbowee, who led a group of women in white t-shirts who stared down warlords to help turn the tide of her country's civil war, also spoke about the millions of others who were not on the stage in Oslo on Saturday.

"I believe that the prize this year recognizes not only our struggle in Liberia and Yemen, it is in recognition of the struggle of grass-roots women in Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote D'Ivoire, Tunisia, Palestine and Israel and in every troubled corner of the world," said Gbowee.

Gbowee added "victory is still afar...there is no time to rest."

The Nobel committee chairman said he first heard the voice of Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman when she was speaking from a tent in Sana'a's Tahrir Square. A few months later, she became the first Arab woman and youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

On the Nobel stage, she said the prize will lift the spirits and support the aspirations of Arabs who are struggling peacefully to improve their lives.

Karman, who appeared on the verge of tears during parts of the ceremony, composed herself to make a strong speech, saying this year's Arab revolutions confronted tyrants who went too far in depriving their people of freedom and justice. She called on the international community to do more to fulfill its pledges and resolutions calling for peace, freedom and women's rights.

The three Nobel Peace Prize winners each received a medal and a diploma, and will share US$1.5 million. The Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry, physics and literature - and the related prize in economics - were presented later Saturday in Stockholm.

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