It is amazing to see not just one, but three women share the Nobel Peace Prize! Congratulations to Leymah Gbowee, author of “Mighty Be Our Powers,” her memoir of life as a peace activist during Liberia’s horrific civil war; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is Liberia’s president and Africa’s first democratically elected female president; and to the democracy activist, Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, for her activities in Arab Spring. Each woman promoted peace in a non-violent way, while supporting democracy and gender equality.
The Nobel Peace Committee selection made clear that, “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.” It selected the women not only for their non-violent attitude in achieving peace but also acknowledged their recognition that women still need to fight for women’s safety and the need for their full participation in women’s rights and other political issues.
Gbowee had some interesting points to make in an the NY Times article, “She criticized the United States as a nation with vast resources that lacks the kind of activism driving social change elsewhere, perhaps because Americans have grown too comfortable. ‘It’s not enough to be comfortable, and say the world’s problems belong to the world,’ she said.
While I’m hesitant to look at America as a whole and point a finger like Gbowee, I can say that I have had similar thoughts about women under third-wave feminism getting “too comfortable.” Freedom of choice is a wonderful civil right and should never go away, but when we forget that personal choice should not dictate collective decisions, third-wave’s freedom of choice begins to work against the progress of women. Even if you don’t identify yourself as a feminist, your ability to choose freely is still a function of third-wave feminism.
For the ladies under third-wave it is important to not just sit on your laurels. There are still equality issues that exist within the Western world, just because we don’t hear it knocking on our own doors does not mean we can sit back and think our job is done. Women’s equality is far from achieved. Our sisters around the world are still fighting for some of the basic rights we earned a long time ago and as Ms. Gbowee put it, “One day the world’s problems will meet you at your doorstep.”
So perhaps you’re not an activist like Leymah Gbowee, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf or Tawakkol Karman, there are little things that we can do just from the comfort of our homes. For us Western women, a lot of it starts with just challenging social norms. Don’t let someone make a crack at the expense of women and change the channel when a TV show exploits them. Inspire young girls to become active participants in leadership and team opportunities and encourage them to reach great achievements in their education. Education is one of the greatest keys in creating equality. As far as helping our sisters abroad, educating yourself about issues like female circumcision to bride burnings to child marriages is a start in realizing how little rights women have elsewhere, promote agencies that focus on women’s educational and economic development, instead of another vacation to the beach do volunteer work abroad. The three female Nobel Peace Prize winners cannot achieve equality and a better world on their own, our participation is necessary too.