Friday, October 7, 2011

Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf receives 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Prize committee today announced that Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is the co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her leading role in the "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work." Sirleaf's dramatic rise to become the first democratically elected woman to lead an African nation vividly highlights the important role women play in achieving peace, as recounted below by Dr. Melinda Adams of James Madison University:

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf made the case that her experience as a woman prepared her for the presidency. Throughout the campaign, Sirleaf called attention to the fact that she was a mother and a grandmother. Speaking to The Perspective, a U.S.-based news magazine published by the Liberian Democratic Future (LDF), Sirleaf stated, for example: “I believe that there are certain attributes in a woman that give her some advantages over a man. Women are usually more honest, more sensitive to issues and bring a stronger sense of commitment and dedication to what they do. Maybe because they were mothers, and being a mother you have that special attention for the family, for the young, for children.” In the documentary, Iron Ladies of Liberia, Sirleaf notes that Liberians often respond favorably to her “Old Ma” political style, in which she approached constituents as a mother who listened to them. Sirleaf’s Ma Ellen campaign implicitly argued that as a woman—and a mother—she would bring feminine leadership qualities, such as warmth and compassion, to the presidency. After years of corruption, mismanagement, and violence associated with Liberia’s previous male leaders, Sirleaf’s commitment to create a government that was more honest, open, and responsive to constituents resonated with Liberians…

Support from Liberian women, which crossed ethnic and class lines, seemed to play an important role in her victory. The Ministry of Gender and Development undertook a voter registration drive that increased the percentage of registered voters who were women from under 30 percent to over 50 percent in less than a month. Literate females boasted the highest turnout figures (77.1% in October and 69.9% in November) of any groups in Liberia. A number of women’s organizations, including the Liberian Women Initiative (LWI), endorsed Sirleaf...In her inaugural address, Sirleaf acknowledged the important role that women played in her election, stating: “During the period of our elections, Liberian women were galvanized—and demonstrated unmatched passion, enthusiasm, and support for my candidacy. They stood with me; they defended me; they worked with me; they prayed for me.”

By Dr. Melinda Adams, from Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office


Learn more about the inspiring work of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and thousands of Liberian women in ending decades of Civil War in West Africa and rebuilding their country with:

Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: 
A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office
Edited By Rainbow Murray

This examination of the role of gender stereotyping in media coverage of executive elections uses nine case studies from around the world to provide a unique comparative perspective.

Women in Developing Countries: 
A Reference Handbook
By Karen L. Kinnear

This book provides a much-needed survey of the discrimination and violence against women in developing countries, and identifies the literature and resources available about this topic.
Peace Movements Worldwide
Edited By Marc Pilisuk and Michael N. Nagler

This three-volume anthology is a comprehensive overview of how the human yearning for peace has played out, and is playing out, on this planet.
Women in Power: World Leaders since 1960
By Gunhild Hoogensen, Bruce O. Solheim

Profiles 22 women who have held the top positions of political leadership around the world.

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