Merkel, Amnesty, EU hail Nobel nod to women's rights

7th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prominent female leaders, rights groups and international organisations all hailed the award of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday to three women who have fought for women's rights.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her compatriot and "peace warrior" Leymah Gbowee and Yemen's Arab Spring activist Tawakkul Karman were announced as joint winners in Oslo.

Norwegian Nobel Committee president Thorbjoern Jagland said the trio shared the award "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, considered the world's most powerful woman, called it a "wise decision".

The committee "is sending a message to the whole world, a message that the Federal Government wholeheartedly endorses," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Merkel was "very personally" pleased about the result.

"Women are the big hope for a peaceful world and better conditions, not only in this region but everywhere," her spokesman said.

"All over the world, there are courageous women who stand up for their rights and for freedom."

Women, Peace and Security Network Africa, the Ghana-based non-governmental founded by Gbowee, said the recognition would boost the women's movement in Africa and beyond.

"The Nobel Prize has confirmed our efforts" and the organisation can now further extend its campaign," administrative manager Bertha Amanor told AFP.

"We are spreading our wings all over the world now because now we have a star," she said.

Gbowee is credited with leading women to defy feared warlords and push men toward peace in Liberia during one of Africa's bloodiest wars.

"This is a Nobel for African women," Gbowee told AFP by phone from the United States.

Kate Kwadzovi, an administrative assistant for the NGO, said "we are popping champagne here in Accra."

"What I know is Leymah herself will use her award to fund our work," she said. "I hope and pray other people will help us."

Amnesty International said the award was vital recognition of the struggle for women's rights.

"This Nobel Peace Prize recognises what human rights activists have known for decades: that the promotion of equality is essential to building just and peaceful societies worldwide," said Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty.

"The tireless work of these and countless other activists brings us closer to a world where women will see their rights protected and enjoy growing influence at all levels of government."

The European Union, a losing nominee for the award, hailed the "pivotal role" played by women in conflict resolution as they congratulated the winners.

EU president Herman Van Rompuy, and Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of its executive body, said it was "recognition of the pivotal role that women play in the peaceful settlement of conflicts and democratic transformation throughout the world."

They hailed the winning nominees as "a victory for a new democratic Africa and for a new democratic Arab world that live in peace and respect for human rights."

© 2011 AFP

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