Harvard Kennedy School Alumna Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

October 7, 2011
by Jenny Li Fowler

The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded today (Oct.7) to three women, including Liberian President and Harvard Kennedy School alumna Ellen Johnson Sirleaf MPA/Mason Fellow 1971. Sirleaf shares the distinction with African peace activist Leymah Gbowee and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen.

The women were awarded the prize for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. The Norwegian Nobel Committee stated, “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.”

"I am delighted that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize acknowledges the important role played by women in peace building and leadership. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman are role models for all of us who want to make the world a better place," said Iris Bohnet, academic dean of Harvard Kennedy School.

Sirleaf is Africa’s first democratically elected female president. Since her inauguration in 2006, she has contributed to securing peace in Liberia, promoting economic and social development, and strengthening the position of women. Among her accomplishments are having secured forgiveness for billions of dollars of Liberian debt and vastly improving Liberia’s image internationally. She faces a presidential poll this month.

Gbowee was cited by the Nobel Committee for having mobilized and organized women across ethnic and religious lines to bring about an end to the long war in Liberia, and for helping ensure women’s participation in elections. She has also been awarded the Blue Ribbon for Peace by Harvard Kennedy School. Karman was cited for having played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen, both before and during the “Arab spring.”

"This prize heightens the world's ability to acknowledge and value the impact women make everyday in their communities. WAPP is proud to have worked closely with the women's peace movement of Liberia and President Sirleaf's administration," said Victoria A. Budson, executive director of Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP).

In a written statement, the Nobel Committee expressed its hope that this year's prize will serve as inspiration to help bring about an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to help fulfill the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.

Other articles you might find interesting:

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf MPA 1971 Named 360th Harvard Commencement speaker

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Guides Liberia into a New Era of Hope

From War to Peace: Liberia’s New President Outlines ‘Action Plan’ for Recovery

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

2011 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

"The hope is 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 Norwegian Nobel Committee.

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