“The world cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society, the prize selection committee stated from Oslo, Norway.
It was only the second time that three individuals have won the prize in a given year, and the Nobel laureates will split their $1.5 million prize.
Below are the five things to know about the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize and its winners, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman.
5) The Winners:
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the sitting President of Liberia. She is the first and only democratically elected female head of state in Africa. The 72 year-old's resume also includes the founding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2006, drastically reducing Liberia's debt and reconciling with the Ivory Coast.
She has also earned degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She got her start in the field of finance, working for the World Bank in Washington D.C., then moving to Nairobi for a job at Citibank. Sirleaf got started in politics in 1985, when she moved home to run for vice president, and then for president in 1987. Sirleaf finally won her current seat in 2005.
Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace advocate. As the founder of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, she became a non-violent force against civil war.
In the past we were silent, but after being killed, raped, dehumanized, and infected with diseases, and watching our children and families destroyed, war has taught us that the future lies in saying NO to violence and YES to peace! We will not relent until peace prevails, the Women in Peacebuilding Network said to President Charles Taylor.
Tawakkul Karman is a human rights activist and politician in Yemen, a country currently experiencing a large-scale popular movement against the government. Karman organized student rallies in the capital of Sanaa, after which she was arrested. When she was released, she immediately went back to protesting.
I am very very happy about this prize, Karman told The Associated Press. I give the prize to the youth of revolution in Yemen and the Yemeni people.
Two of the three winners are from Liberia, and for good reason. The African country was ripped apart by civil war and political instability for almost three decades.
Both Sirleaf and Gbowee played a role in ending the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. Gbowee's Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, which started as a grassroots women's movement devoted to non-violent protest and prayer, convinced President Charles Taylor to meet with them and then made him promise to attend peace talks with Ghana.
Taylor eventually resigned and fled to Nigeria for safety, making room for Sirleaf's election.
In her first year in office, Sirleaf create the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a government organization mandated to investigate human rights violations committed during the war. The commission found 49 people it deemed should be specifically barred from holding public offices; elected or appointed for a period of thirty (30) years and for being associated with former warring factions.
3) Other Candidates for the Peace Prize:
The Arab Spring was a massively important world event in 2011, and the popular uprisings across the Arab world saw the expulsion of numerous repressive regimes, as well as the growth of democracy and human rights.
Karman's win is one of many high points for the movement, but prior to the announcement on Friday, many media outlets speculated that some of the bloggers and activists in Egypt, Tunesia and Libya could get the prize.
Some even proposed that social media entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg should win because sites like Facebook and Twitter were powerful tools of mass communication during many of the Arab Spring uprisings.
But regime-toppling mass-movements are about people, and not technology.
Others suggested that if the Arab Spring was the most important world event of the year, Mohamed Bouazizi should win the prize. Bouazizi was the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in December -- the event many credit as the spark that lit the North African power keg of social uprising.
The Peace Prize cannot be award posthumously, however, making the Hero of Tunisia ineligible.
2) Work is Not Done:
Many years before the revolutions started [Karman] stood up against one of the most authoritarian and autocratic regimes in the world, Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland told reporters in Oslo.
Karman was and still is responsible for organizing protests and demonstrations in Yemen, where government forces and citizens are still clashing. Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh has yet to make any significant concessions. Karman was elated when she found out she won the Peace Prize, but said there is still much work to be done in Yemen.
Additionally, with rival tribes now turning against Saleh, further violence may be imminent. In June, someone tried to assassinate Saleh by shooting an R.P.G. into his presidential compound.
Karman's task will be to make sure that non-violence prevails.
Only 40 of the total 776 Peace Prize winners have been women in the past, and no three women have ever won the prize together.
In 1976, two women -- Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, who founded the Northern Ireland Peace Movement -- split the prize.
Some lament the fact that few women win Nobel Peace Prizes, and that when they do, it it usually for female activism. When a woman wins for things like helping the victims of rape, domestic violence and equality in the workplace, it positions women as victims of men. While these issues are surely serious, victimization does not lead to empowerment.
These latest Nobel prizes help reverse that impression, Christian Science Monitor said Friday. They supplant an image of victimhood with models of brave and wise leadership, female or not... Women can be protagonists in the public sphere, not just protectionists of their own kind.
In the end, gender should be overlooked. These three people did, and are doing, miraculous things in the name of peace, and that's what matters.
With or without a Nobel I will still do what I do because I am a symbol of hope in my community on the continent, in a place where there is little to be hopeful for, Gbowee told Reuters.
If you are a symbol of hope you don't do it because you are expecting a reward, you do it because you are expected to do so.