“We were overjoyed. We were cheering in the hallways,” Susanna Elmberger of Kvinna till Kvinna, a Swedish women’s rights group active in Liberia and other post-conflict areas, told The Local.
The reaction comes following news that the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize for 2011 to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”
Liberian president Johnson Sirleaf is Africa’s first democratically elected female president, while Gbowee is a peace activist who “mobilized and organised women across ethnic and religious dividing lines” to help end Liberia’s civil war.
Karman, meanwhile, has played a “leading part” in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.
“It is the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s hope that the prize to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realise the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent,” the Committee said in a statement.
Kvinna till Kvinna’s Elmberger hoped that the trio’s winning of the Nobel would further boost recognition of the important role woman can play in peace processes.
“This is a recognition of the importance of women’s role in peace-building,” said Elmberger.
“There are still very few women involved in peace processes around the world. Hopefully the award will create more chances for women to get involved.
“It was extra special for us because we’ve been working so closely with the women’s movement and the peace process in Liberia. It feels like this prize not only goes to these individual women, but to the whole women’s movement in Liberia.”
Sweden’s EU minister Brigitta Olhsson who has also been active in promoting women’s rights, also hailed the Nobel Committee’s choice of Johnson Sirleaf.
“Fantastic that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf got the Nobel peace prize,” Ohlsson announced via Twitter.
“All of us who’ve met her admire how she has moved feminism into the parlours of politics.”
Social Democrat foreign policy spokesperson Urban Ahlin joined in hailing the award winners, saying the prize will “highlight women’s situation in conflicts and their role in peace-building”.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) joined in the congratulations of the new Nobel peace laureates.
“This prize highlights the powerful contribution that women around the world, in all walks of life, make to bettering the conditions for peace and human dignity,” the group said in a statement.
“This award will generate much-needed further empowerment of the world’s women as active and effective peacebuilders.”
According to Elmberger, however, the prize is unlikely to have “major consequences” for Swedish development aid policies.
“However, it may help shift the focus to long-term cooperative efforts instead of only short-term humanitarian interventions,” she said.