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Tribute to Nobel Peace Prize Winners

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, on Friday, October 7, the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 was awarded to three distinguished women for their courageous efforts to promote peace and democracy. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, her compatriot and peace activist Leymah Gbowee, and prodemocracy campaigner Tawakkol Karman of Yemen join the ranks of the chosen few whose dedication to peace is acknowledged by the international community.

President Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first democratically elected female head of state, has helped Liberia recover from 14 brutal years of civil war. Taking office in 2006 after a lengthy exile, she led her nation to greater peace and security, while transforming Liberia in the eyes of the world.

Ms. Gbowee, a founding member of the Women in Peacebuilding Network, mobilized over 3,000 Muslim and Christian women to hold nonviolent protests that helped bring an end to Liberia's civil war. Her efforts demonstrate that the desire for peace and the power to effect change transcend ethnic, religious, and gender divides.

Ms. Karman has for years been a vocal champion of human rights in Yemen. In 2005, she founded a group called Women Journalists Without Chains. Since then, she has braved physical threats and harassment to advance the cause of freedom in her country. And this year, she has emerged as one of the leaders of Yemen's nonviolent democratic uprising. As the first Arab woman to receive a Nobel prize, her selection honors all of the mothers, daughters, and sisters across the Middle East who have been standing for their rights alongside their fathers, sons and brothers.

In the history of the Nobel Peace Prize, very few women have received this high honor. The choice of the selection committee this year is more than a recognition of the strength and courage of these women; it is a clear and resounding testament to the idea that women's rights are important, that it is smart policy to promote gender equality, and that societies are better off when all of their members--women included--can safely exercise their fundamental rights and become drivers of economic security and political opportunity.

Let's take this moment to remember another Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Wangari Maathai, who passed away just days before this year's announcement. Dr. Maathai led the Green Belt Movement with tenacity and vision, transforming Kenya's landscape and women's lives. She and the women who are honored this year leave an indelible mark on our social consciousness. I want to congratulate President Johnson Sirleaf, Ms. Gbowee, and Ms. Karman on their selection and to thank them for their service to their communities and commitment to uphold global standards of human rights.

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