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Participatory Democracy Cultural Initiative salutes the 2011 Peace Prize winners

( Participatory Democracy Cultural Iniciative, Inc. (PDCI) congratulates the Nobel Committee's selection of three peace loving women for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni democracy leader Tawakkul Karman, received the award in recognition of "their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work." 

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Liberia's first democratically elected female president in 2006, three years after that country's bloody civil war ended. During the 14-year conflict, more than 200,000 people perished.  Upon hearing news of the award, President Johnson Sirleaf credited her countrymen with Liberia's current stability: "I'm accepting this on behalf of the Liberian people, so credit goes to them...  For the past eight years, we have had peace and each and every one of them has contributed to this peace." 

As head of the Women for Peace movement, Leymah Gbowee organized multiple peaceful demonstrations that helped bring an end to Liberia's civil war and restore peace in her country. In November 2003, she led Liberian women in a march against armed gangs who continued to rape women and girls in her country's capital after the civil war ended. The women dressed in white to symbolize their hopes for peace, and marched to Monrovia's City Hall. 

As Liberia prepares for its upcoming elections, we hope this Nobel recognition will serve as a reminder that political competition should be carried out fairly, peacefully, and democratically. 

Our PDCI is glad that Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman was also awarded this Peace Prize. During the early days of the Arab Spring, she took to the streets of Yemen's capital, Sana'a, with 50 other university students. One week later, she was detained by security forces. In an editorial published by The Guardian, Ms. Karman discussed the effect her detention had on the uprising: "This was to become a defining moment in the Yemeni revolution: media outlets reported my detention and demonstrations erupted in most provinces of the country; they were organized by students, civil society activists and politicians. The pressure on the government was intense, and I was released after 36 hours in a women's prison, where I was kept in chains." 

Her determination and courage is thus an example to democracy movements everywhere. When she learned about this Prize, Ms. Karman declared that "Every tyrant and dictator is upset by this prize because it confronts injustice." 

Many other women, like the "Ladies in White", peacefully marching every week for democracy in Cuba, are in the forefront among human rights advocates and democracy activists all over the world.  They all deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.  But these three women selected for the 2011 award truly represent all others that did not get it this time.  We wish them all every success in their struggle for world peace and democracy.