The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to three women "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work".
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee And Tawakkul Karman all received the honour, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced on Friday.
Johnson-Sirleaf, the Liberian president, is Africa's first democratically elected female president. The Nobel committee said she had "contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women."
Leymah Gbowee was recognised for mobilising and organising women "across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure women's participation in elections".
And Tawakkul Karman, the woman said to be leading pro-democracy protests in Yemen, was given the award for playing "a leading part in the struggle for women's rights and for democracy and peace" in her country.
The peace prize has been frequently split between several winners in the past, including in 1994 when it went to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.
Bushuben Keita, a spokesman for Johnson Sirleaf’s Unity Party which is currently campaigning ahead of elections to be held this month, told The New York Times: “We are dancing. This is the thing that we have been saying, progress has been made in Liberia. We’ve come through 14 years of war and we have come to sustained peace. We’ve already started dancing.
“This is proof that she has been doing well, there’s no cheating in this, this comes from other people. She’s doing very, very well. Her progress has been confirmed by the international community.”
Karman told the Associated Press: "I am very very happy about this prize. I give the prize to the youth of revolution in Yemen and the Yemeni people."
The committee said it hoped the award would help end the suppression of women "that still occurs in many countries, and to realise the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent."
More than 250 people were nominated for the prize, and there had been speculation that it would honour figures from the Middle East involved in the 'Arab Spring' revolutions in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, or those who had used social media to call for political change.
In 2010 the winner was Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, a choice that led to the Chinese taking reprisals against Norway and not allowing Liu to leave the country to receive his prize.
Human Rights Watch urged the Chinese authorities to release the Liu, who was originally detained in 2008. They urged governments who attended the 2010 ceremony to call for Liu’s freedom and an end to the persecution of his family and supporters.
The complete text of the Nobel committee's announcement follows this slideshow of prominent former winners:
The Norwegian Nobel committee has decided that the Nobel peace prize for 2011 is to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work. 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.
In October 2000, the UN security council adopted Resolution 1325. The resolution for the first time made violence against women in armed conflict an international security issue. It underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa's first democratically elected female president. Since her inauguration in 2006, she has contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women. Leymah Gbowee mobilized and organized women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure women's participation in elections. She has since worked to enhance the influence of women in West Africa during and after war.
In the most trying circumstances, both before and during the "Arab spring," Tawakul Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women's rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.
It is the Norwegian Nobel committee's hope 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.