OSLO: Declaring women's rights vital for world peace, the Nobel Committee awarded its annual Peace Prize on Friday to three indomitable female campaigners against war and oppression -- a Yemeni and two Liberians, including that country's president.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first woman freely elected as a head of state in Africa, shared the award worth $1.5 million with compatriot Leymah Gbowee, who promoted a "sex strike" among efforts to end Liberia's civil war, and Yemen's Tawakul Karman, who called her honour "a victory for the Arab Spring".
"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," Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told reporters.
"This is to highlight an incredibly important issue all over the world but especially in Africa and in the Arab world."
Karman, a 32-year-old journalist and veteran campaigner, has been a key figure in protests in the capital Sanaa this year:
"This is a victory for the Arab Spring in Tunis, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen," she told Reuters. "This is a message that the era of Arab dictatorships is over."
Typically, she was out demonstrating in a central square in Sanaa for the departure of veteran Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh when she heard the news.
Johnson-Sirleaf, 72, a former World Bank economist dubbed the "Iron Lady" by opponents, called it a recognition of her nation's "many years of struggle for justice, peace, and promotion of development" since a brutal decade of civil war.
"I believe we both accept this on behalf of the Liberian people, and the credit goes to the Liberian people," she said.
Gbowee, 39, was travelling in the United States. Her Women For Peace movement is credited by some helping end the war in 2003. Starting with prayers and songs at a fish market, she also urged the wives and girlfriends of leaders of the warring factions to deny them sex until they laid down their arms.
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