Saturday, December 10, 2011

Congratulations to the Nobel winners!

This morning I watched the beautiful ceremonies as medals were awarded and speeches given...Here are some excerpts that got my attention.
Nobel Ceremony Presentation:
After Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, spoke extensively about how women have disproportionately felt the burden of war and injustice, he went on to say:

"But luckily women are not only victims. Some take action.
Three of them are today receiving the Nobel Peace Prize"

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's whole life can be seen as a realization of the intentions of Resolution 1325. In 1980 she went into exile after having been imprisoned and threatened with rape. For several years she served as Director of the UNDP's Regional Bureau for Africa. She was one of seven eminent persons who investigated the genocide in Rwanda on behalf of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). When the civil war broke out in Liberia in 1989, Johnson Sirleaf first supported Charles Taylor in the hope that he might represent a solution, but gradually dissociated herself from him, and ran against Taylor, unsuccessfully, in the presidential election in 1997. In the election in 2005, however, Johnson Sirleaf won a convincing victory, which made her the first democratically elected female head of state on the African continent. Liberia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, and faces huge problems, but much progress has nevertheless been made since Johnson Sirleaf was installed as President in 2006. The civil war is over; democracy is working; there has been considerable economic growth; the very widespread corruption has been somewhat reduced; women's education and participation in social life has been significantly strengthened; the monstrous number of rapes has diminished."

He continued by congratulating  Leymah Gbowee.
"She is the trauma specialist who switched from treating war victims to working for peace. In 2002, she mobilized a network of over 2,000 women in 15 provinces in Liberia to protest against the war and the violence. They dressed in white and took their stand near Monrovia's fish market. It was very important that Gbowee managed to unite women with quite different religious and ethnic backgrounds in this struggle. During the peace negotiations in Ghana, the women in frustration shut the male negotiators in and threatened to strip themselves naked, something which in that country would have brought utter disgrace on the men. As we know, they were able to keep their clothes on. A peace agreement was reached. Gbowee's work inspired many women to engage in a non-violent struggle against war and violence and for women's rights. As a network-builder, she took the initiative in forming the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET), which focused not only on Liberia but also on other parts of West Africa. Gbowee currently heads the Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN), headquartered in Accra in Ghana. We hope this year's prize will help to strengthen this network."

And finally, he greeted and praised Tawakkol Karman
"Yemen is the country in the world which has made the least progress where women's rights are concerned. In her home, Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman keeps pictures of her heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Hillary Clinton. Many years before the Arab Spring in 2011, she was a youth and female activist. She became a journalist and founded the organization Women Journalists Without Chains. She organized peaceful sit-ins and information campaigns; she trained other women to take part in this struggle. In a country where the vast majority of women wear niqabs, Tawakkol Karman changed to the hijab. She is at the same time a member of an Islamic party. In 2011 she was one of the leaders of the demonstrations on Change Square in Sana. She was imprisoned and exposed to serious threats, but nothing stopped her. Day in and day out, she has campaigned against President Ali Abdullah Saleh and for democracy, women's rights, and tolerance. She advocates understanding between Shias and Sunnis and between Islam and other religions... As a 32-year-old, she is the youngest laureate in the history of the Peace Prize."

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Nobel Lecture
"Today, across the globe, women, and also men, from all walks of life are finding the courage to say, loudly and firmly, in a thousand languages, “No more.” They reject mindless violence, and defend the fundamental values of democracy, of open society, of freedom, and of peace. So I urge my sisters, and my brothers, not to be afraid. Be not afraid to denounce injustice, though you may be outnumbered. Be not afraid to seek peace, even if your voice may be small. Be not afraid to demand peace. If I might thus speak to girls and women everywhere, I would issue them this simple invitation: My sisters, my daughters, my friends, find your voices! Each of us has her own voice, and the differences among us are to be celebrated. But our goals are in harmony. They are the pursuit of peace, the pursuit of justice. They are the defense of rights to which all people are entitled."

Leymah Gbowee Nobel Lecture
We worked daily confronting warlords, meeting with dictators and refusing to be silenced in the face of AK 47 and RPGs. We walked when we had no transportation, we fasted when water was unaffordable, we held hands in the face of danger, we spoke truth to power when everyone else was being diplomatic, we stood under the rain and the sun with our children to tell the world the stories of the other side of the conflict. Our educational backgrounds, travel experiences, faiths, and social classes did not matter. We had a common agenda: Peace for Liberia Now. 

We succeeded when no one thought we would, we were the conscience of the ones who had lost their consciences in their quest for power and political positions. We represented the soul of the nation. No one would have prepared my sisters and I for today — that our struggle would go down in the history of this world. Rather when confronting warlords we did so because we felt it was our moral duty to stand as mothers and gird our waist, to fight the demons of war in order to protect the lives of our children, their land, and their future. I must be quick to add that this prize is not just in recognition of the triumph of women. It is a triumph of humanity. To recognize and honor women, the other half of humanity, is to achieve universal wholeness and balance."

Tawakkol Karman Nobel Lecture
"Since the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, millions of people have died in wars which could have been avoided with a little wisdom and courage. The Arab countries had their share in these tragic wars, though their land is the land of prophecies and divine messages calling for peace. From this land came the Torah carrying the message: "Thou shalt not kill" and the Bible promising: "Blessed are the peacemakers," and the final message of the Koran urging "O ye who believe, enter ye into the peace, one and all." And the warning that "whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind....Peace does not mean just to stop wars, but also to stop oppression and injustice.