Eshet Chayil! – Three women of valor win the Nobel Peace Prize

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

"A woman of valor, who can find?” 
– Proverbs 31:10

Congratulations to Leymah Gbowee, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and Tawakul Karman – shared winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  

Their stories:  

Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian mother of six, who after working with ex-child soldiers as a trauma counselor, resolved that “if any changes are to be made in society, it has to be by the mothers.” So in 2002 she organized the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, a movement which sought to end Liberia’s long and bloody civil war through prayer, silent protests, and (perhaps most effectively) a sex strike. Her efforts culminated in a massive silent protest outside the Presidential Palace, where women wearing white T-shirts and dresses demanded a resolution to the conflict, issuing a statement that read: "In the past we were silent, but after being killed, raped, dehumanized, and infected with diseases, and watching our children and families destroyed, war has taught us that the future lies in saying NO to violence and YES to peace! We will not relent until peace prevails." When progress toward peace talks stalled, the women threatened to take off their clothes. Their efforts earned Gbowee a meeting with Liberia’s former president and warlord Charles Taylor, who finally agreed to reopen peace talks in 2003. The war soon came to an end, and with the support of Gbowee, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected president. (The efforts of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace are featured in the documentary “Pray The Devil Back To Hell,” featured above.)

Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is the president of Liberia and the first and only elected female head of state in Africa. With a background in economics and banking, Johnson-Sirleaf spoke out against Liberia’s corrupt and violent warlord leaders, earning her jail-time in 1985 and 1986. (She was imprisoned for calling government officials “idiots.”) After fleeing to the United States for several years, she returned to Liberia to run for the office of president against Charles Taylor, a man who has since been convicted of war crimes.She lost that election, but through the campaigning process became known as Liberia’s Iron Lady. Finally, after her country endured a decade of civil war that claimed the lives of over 200,000 people,  and with the help of Leymah Gbowee and the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, Johnson-Sirleaf was elected president in 2005. She just completed a heated bid for reelection, with the results yet to be decided. 

Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

Tawakul Karman is a 32 year-old Yemeni  activist and the mother of three children. A journalist and human rights activist, Karman has spoken out against the tyranny of President Ali Abdullah Saleh for years, but has recently become the face of the 2011 Yemeni uprising by organizing weekly protests and sit-ins around the capital. Karmen has been imprisoned multiple times, and has survived one assassination attempt. She even fought her own political party last year by publishing a paper that condemned ultra-conservative Islah members for blocking a bill that would make it illegal to marry girls under the age of 17.  "The extremist people hate me,” she said. “They speak about me in the mosques and pass round leaflets condemning me as un-Islamic. They say I'm trying to take women away from their houses." She is the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor! 

Please share these women’s stories.  They embody all that is possible in the world if women are given the chance to speak out and to lead.

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