FASTLANES: Nobel Prize and struggles for democracy

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The Nobel Peace Prize in at least the last three years represents unfinished struggles around the world.

The annual prize given by the Royal Government of Norway in honor of the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who wished the award be given to recognize peace work, as a mea culpa of sorts for inventing among others, explosives, has long been considered as the most prestigious recognition of a person’s or a groups’ struggles for the betterment of humanity.

This year, the Nobel Peace Prize, announced in Oslo, Norway on Oct. 7, 2011, is shared by three women, namely, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the 72-year-old President of Liberia; Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, 39; and Yemeni journalist Tawakkul Karman, 32.

The three were given the award for their indomitable campaign against war and oppression.

This year’s winners represent how women have gotten out of the box to represent not just the their gender’s struggles in a region long dominated by males, but also on how women are playing gargantuan roles in the larger social struggles in their countries.

“We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland was quoted as saying.

Sirleaf represents woman power in post conflict Liberia, whose other prominent person, Charles Taylor, was known for his notoriety as a warlord par excellence. Sirleaf navigated Liberia from the remnants of the despotic Taylor regime in 2005 to become the first woman president in the African continent.

Gbowee has been recognized for her role in the interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue in post conflict Liberia and extending her work in Ghana and Sierra Leone in the last decade.

Gboyee’s Women For Peace movement has been credited for its role in ending the Liberian revolution in 2003. The movement started humbly in 2002 when Gbowee organized a group of women to sing and pray for an end to fighting in a fish market.

She is the subject of an award-winning documentary film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”.

Karman, a journalist, is a determined advocate of freedom of expression and other democratic rights. She founded in 2005 the Women Journalists Without Chains.

Karman’s Nobel laureate is viewed as a global affirmation of the Arab Spring that swept the Middle East and North Africa in the spring of this year. The Arab Spring led to the fall of dictatorships in Egypt, Tunisia and lately in Libya. Protests however are still raging in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, with Yemen and Syria now escalating into bloodshed.

Although the people of Yemen are still battling against their long-time dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh and the body count mounting, Karman represents the aspiration of young Arabs, especially the women, for equal opportunities and for sweeping democratic transformation in the Arab region, which is mostly ruled by autocrats.

In at least the last three years, the Nobel Peace Prize represented continuing struggles for democratic transformation.

2010 Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo is still serving an 11-year prison sentence in China for his non-violent struggle for recognition of human rights in the world’s most populous country.

Even 2009 Nobel laureate Barack Obama can be considered as leading changes in the United States of America whose economic crises have been viewed by many as the reason of America’s foreign policy that is tantamount to aggression around the world, in Palestine, in Iraq, Afghanistan and even in countries like the Philippines where it has stationed special forces in the south in the name of joint military exercises.

The US political economic crises is largely now represented by the stalemate in Capitol Hill between the Democrats and conservative Republicans to legislative measures like the $5-billion jobs plan of Obama and the ongoing street protests dubbed “Occupy Wall Street” in New York, which is driven by the more than 9-percent unemployment rate in the world’s wounded superpower.

While the struggles of the Nobel Peace laureates are still continuing in a world wracked by economic crises and political conflicts, it is important to note that the recognition of their work represents HOPE in a world that seems sliding into the abyss.

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