Nobel Peace Prize 2011: Groundbreaking recognition that women get the job done
When the The Nobel Peace Prize 2011 is awarded to three women tomorrow, the committee will recognize what policymakers have long ignored: the work of women in peace building. It's time to move beyond 'peace' that depends on warlords to engage all key stakeholders, especially women.
When the Nobel Peace Prize 2011 is awarded to three women on Dec. 10, the committee will be recognizing something policymakers have ignored for centuries: the work of women in peace building.Skip to next paragraph
Female individuals (such as this year’s joint winners, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia; Leymah Gbowee, an activist in Liberia; and Tawakkol Karman, of Yemen) have been honored in the past. But now so will the concept of women’s “full participation in peace-building work,” as the Nobel Committee put it. And that recognition is new.
For nearly two decades, I and others in a global women’s peace network have been pressing for just such a shift in the international security paradigm.
The world needs to move beyond “peace” that depends on warlords toward peace built on the expertise of all key stakeholders, especially women. We need to move from unstable interventions to inclusive security. That requires a major shift in how policymakers think about achieving peace.
The concept of “inclusive security” was born in 1999 at Harvard University, when 100 women gathered from around the world to document how they were pursuing just and sustainable peace. Their voices needed to be heard in circles where policy is formed.
Defying headlines that call them only victims, these women leaders focused on their ability to create change – not on their vulnerability – and on the need for a representative, practical, and efficient approach to managing conflict.
They were the first of the Women Waging Peace Network, now 1,000 strong and a driving force around the world. They’re engaged in resolving conflicts, from mediating an end to resource disputes between communities to monitoring potential flashpoints within them.
One of our early network members was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was to become the first elected female president in Africa, followed by Leymah Gbowee, who had mobilized Liberian women across ethnic and religious divides to help end 14 years of civil war.
Through direct engagement with other members and through her example in Liberia, President Johnson Sirleaf has played a formative role in building the network. For example, her appointees in Monrovia helped us organize “Inspiration Days,” to encourage local women to stand as candidates – sometimes even as tribal chiefs – throughout Liberia.
The president, who ran in the first and recent election as “Ma Ellen,” is known worldwide for her focus on economic and social development. The image I hold is from early in her tenure. As we drove from church to her home, she got out of the car and pushed past her security detail to examine bricks being made in the street. “I wanted to be sure that the second lot of bricks matched the first,” she explained. Such attention to detail.