Today, three women shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the work that they’ve done in their respective countries. Ellen Johnson was a vocal critic of past Liberian regimes until she became the first female African head of state in 2005. Leyham Gbowee is credited for mobilizing women to bring an end to an ongoing civil war in Liberia, and, subsequently, to participate in the political process. Tawakul Kamran is a prominent activist for human rights and freedom of expression in Yemen, currently leading the charge against Yemeni president, Ali-Abdullah Saleh.
Though these women should be recognized for the efforts alone, the world is going to recognize them also because of their gender. Eyebrows may be raised when they find out that an Arab and Muslim woman, who willingly wears a head scarf, could be so vocal. Others will be taken aback to learn that an African nation elected a female president before the US could. And many will be surprised to learn a woman led a successful peaceful movement against warring factions that threatened to destroy her homeland.
A lot of people will argue that the media is focusing too much on the gender of these individuals. Yes, accomplishments should be recognized without the recognition of gender, race, or faith. But let’s face it, that’s not about to happen. And I, frankly, do not see the harm in highlighting to the world what these women have done. If anything this should be an eye-opener to those who doubt the impact that women can have on society. These three demonstrate what it means when the other half of the population is engaged socially, economically, and politically.
And these women are just the tip of the iceberg. From England to Egypt to China, women, on a daily basis, are struggling to make life better for themselves and those around them. It’s about time the world sat up and paid attention. And it’s about time the world gave them the respect that they earned years ago.