Nobel peace prize: the three female winners
This year's decision by the Nobel committee to recognise the role of women in peace-making has been hailed. Who are the women honoured?
Affectionately known as Liberia’s “Iron Lady”, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became Africa’s first elected female head of state in 2005, following a presidential run-off in which she defeated George Weah, the former Manchester City footballer.
An American university graduate and an employee of both the UN and the World Bank, she forged a reputation as leading member of a rare breed of educated professionals in a country being torn apart by gluttonous and barbaric warlords.
She was defeated by one of the most notorious of these men, Charles Taylor, in an election in 1997.
One of only four senior ministers to escape the execution of the mass execution of the cabinet following a coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, she emerged as a leading champion for the cause of democracy during Liberia’s brutal 12-year civil war.
Leymah Gbowee led women to defy feared warlords and pushed men towards peace during one of Africa’s bloodiest wars.
Without her, and the group of women she led in prayer and public protest for much of the conflict, many believe the fighting, which left more than 200,000 people dead, would not have been brought to an end in 2003.
For three years, she led non-violent demonstrations, but her real impact came in 2002 when she convinced Christian and Muslim women alike to refuse to have sex with their husbands until the civil strife had ended.
The “sex strike” caught the public imagination and peace talks began.
When negotiations came close to collapse, she and her followers physically prevented the warring factions from leaving the room where the talks were being held by blocking the exits. A fortnight later, they came to terms and a peace treaty was formally announced.
Mrs Karman, who is 33, has openly challenged the repressive system in her country for years.
Since 2007 she has staged weekly protests with fellow members of Women Journalists Without Chains, the movement she founded two years earlier, to campaign against injustice.
She narrowly escaped with her life last year when a female would-be assassin attempted to stab her with a traditional dagger known as a jambiya. Mrs Karman was rescued by fellow protesters.
Initially, her ire was primarily concentrated against Yemen’s corrupt local potentates; she first started campaigning on behalf of a group of villagers evicted from their land by a grasping tribal chief with close ties to the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Making a bold statement in a highly conservative nation, she also stopped wearing the face-covering niqab, choosing instead just to wear a headscarf.