Women for Peace, Democracy

The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a trio of women's rights activists: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen. The Norwegian Nobel Committee stated that this year's award was for promoting women’s rights through peacebuilding work in Liberia and Yemen. The award, was shared between Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first democratically elected female president; Leymah Gbowee, who mobilized women across ethnic and religious lines to bring an end to war in Liberia; and Tawakkul Karman, head of Women Journalists Without Chains, who played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and democracy and peace in Yemen. While many had expected the Norwegian Nobel Committee to acknowledge those who had played a leading role in the Arab Spring it was however pointed out that the committee’s larger goal was to highlight that the freedom and rights of women was an important prerequisite to a society becoming truly democratic. The relevance of this message for our present Naga context requires some introspection on our part more so at a time when our Naga women want their rights for political representation addressed. In a sense therefore the message for us seems to be that democracy and having election is just not enough and the more important thing is to measure the quality of our democracy and how it is able to address the rights of our women. The more you think about it the more it makes sense that for democracy to become real and inclusive in the Naga context, women must find themselves in decision making, whether this is realized through reservation or otherwise.
Coming back to this year’s award, the recognition was as much about women’s rights as it was also about the courage of conviction shown by women leaders to address the confronting challenges on the ground—whether it was violence, war or oppression against women. What is important to note here is that these are not just women issues but common problems of peace, freedom and development. It goes to show that women can make a difference in addressing the big problems of our days. This year’s Norwegian Nobel Committee must be applauded for taking the lead in breaking the age old stereotype which looks at women as mere sexual objects and victims. Most of our present day institutions and laws look upon women as victims and not on what they can offer to the present state of affairs. Hopefully the award to the three women will help in making that fundamental shift in changing the negative impression about women and see them as equal partners and in some case more than equal partners as they are proving that when it comes to leadership and capability to solve problems. In our Naga context also, women seem to reason better and are more creative in approaching challenges. This is a big plus compared to our menfolk, especially the older generation, who tend to be hasty, unreasonable, unimaginative and rigid in their approach. Given the promise of having womenfolk in tackling the problem/s in our present state of affairs, we need more women to take up leadership role in the public arena. Let us take inspiration from one of this year’s peace prize recipients, Leymah Gbowee who helped found the Women in Peacebuilding Network which pushed for a peace settlement in Liberia using aggressive nonviolent means, including prayer.