Kudos to the Nobel Peace Prize committee for selecting three women activists from Africa and the Middle East. They are President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, the Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman, a pro-democracy campaigner in Yemen. Their selection turns the spotlight on the pivotal role of women in promoting development, democracy and peace. But I also like the committee's decision because it shows that activism comes in all shapes and forms. One women is an elected leader, another the leader of the Women for Peace movement uniting Christian and Muslim women in Liberia, and the last the founder of Women Journalists Without Chains, a civil society advocacy organization in Yemen.
I also like the fact that civil society activists got much of the credit. Women like Gbowee and Karman did not just burst onto the scene, but have been building their organizations and movements for years. According to the New York Times, Gbowee's Women for Peace was started in 2002, while Karman's Women Journalists Without Chains was established in 2007. Their achievements are the result of years of patient, determined, brave activism. As Thorbjorn Jagland, the head of the committee, noted the 2011 prize recognized those “who were there long before the world’s media was there reporting.”
There are many civil society activists like this in China -- women and men alike -- who have yet to get the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize committee or the international media, but deserve more of our attention for their work.