World applauds as female activists share Nobel Prize
Norway's Nobel committee returned to its peacemaking roots yesterday when it bestowed its most famous award on two women known to their supporters as "iron ladies" and a third who used sex as a weapon for peace.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia and Africa's first female head of state, shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with fellow countrywoman Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni activist Tawakul Karman, the committee's solitary nod to the Arab Spring.
The prize has attracted its opponents in recent years, with China leading a 19-state boycott of the 2010 ceremony honouring Liu Xiaobo, the jailed Chinese dissident.
This year's decision to recognise the role of women in peacemaking has proved far more popular. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, hailed the committee for making a "wise decision".
Mrs Johnson Sirleaf, credited with rebuilding her nation after a devastating 12-year civil war, appeared to be a particularly crowd-pleasing choice.
Bono, the U2 lead singer, called her win "wonderful", while Desmond Tutu, the South African clergyman, said: "She deserves it many times over. She's brought stability to a place that was going to hell."
Mrs Johnson Sirleaf described the award as being "for all Liberian people" but, in a rare example of dissension, her victory was not welcomed by the two rivals standing against her in next Tuesday's presidential election in Liberia.
The prize, which prompted scenes of spontaneous celebration in the Liberian capital Monrovia, has given her flagging campaign a major boost.
She might never have come to power if it had not been for the work of her fellow-winner Mrs Gbowee, whose campaigning ensured the right of women to participate in Liberian politics.
Perhaps Mrs Gbowee's most famous moment came in 2002, when she persuaded many Liberian women to withhold sex from their warring menfolk unless they came to the negotiating table, a devastatingly successful campaign inspired by the Aristophanes play 'Lysistrata'.
There had been widespread expectation that the Arab Spring would be honoured.
Ms Karman had not been considered one of the favourites, but her choice was also widely applauded by those at the forefront of the Arab Spring. (© Daily Telegraph, London)