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will women win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005?

by Sierra Bacquie | July 26, 2005

Women’s work. Whether it’s the work women do in the home, in the workplace or in the community, women’s work has a millennia-long history of being unacknowledged, undervalued and uncelebrated.

This is no less true of the work that women the world over do every day in the name of peace. But that is about to change.

The 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 project was born in Switzerland, but is spreading throughout the world. It seeks to recognize and honour women’s contributions to peace. This is “peace” in the broadest sense of the word, meaning not just the absence of violence or war, but personal security and social justice for all.

The project has nominated 1,000 women for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize – women who stand symbolically for the millions who work every day, in every corner of the earth, in the name of peace.

the goal

True, the project’s aim is to have the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to its nominees. (According to Nobel rules, no more than three individuals may be awarded the prize in any one year. As a result, 1000 Women selected a few of its picks at random to represent the thousand, who in turn represent the millions.)

With our without the prize, this is an effort to bring recognition at last to the enormous and essential contributions of women in the furtherance of peace. And to honour and celebrate those efforts.

The project comprises three key objectives:

  • As already mentioned, to seek the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the world’s women who work for peace.
  • To document the project itself, and foster awareness and appreciation of the work these women do. This will include a book that summarizes the project and honours each of the nominees; a travelling exhibit; and an interactive Internet presence.
  • To conduct formal academic study and evaluation of women’s peace work, so that the winning strategies may be adapted and applied in situations of conflict in the future.

The project also seeks to strengthen existing networks – and create new ones.

the birth of an idea

The first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1901. The first woman to receive the prize – Bertha von Suttner, honorary president of the Permanent International Peace Office – was so honoured in 1905. One hundred years later, 80 men, 20 organizations, and only 11 other women have received the prize.

This did not sit right with Dr. Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, a member of the Swiss Parliament and the Council of Europe.

Not when she had travelled extensively through the developing world and war-torn areas and seen first-hand the tireless and vital efforts of women who:

  • care for the injured and dying
  • rebuild what war has destroyed
  • distribute food and medicine to those in need
  • search for missing persons
  • fight against poverty and violence and for human rights
  • advocate for social justice
  • secretly document the atrocities of war and abuse of power – often at great personal risk.

Not when she knew that women disproportionately bear the brunt of war:

  • as the victims of rape, torture and murder
  • as witnesses to their children’s deaths and the destruction of their homes and communities, and
  • as caregivers to the maimed and injured.

So, Dr. Mangold and Maren Haartje of swisspeace, began hammering out the details of what would become the 1000 Women project early in 2003.

from idea to action

In 2004, 20 project coordinators – women known for their own peace-related work – used their networks of contacts to solicit nominations of 2,000 women from 153 countries.

The women included:

  • Dr. Sima Simar, the former minister for Women’s Affairs and vice-president of Afghanistan’s interim government.
  • Dr. Vera Chirwa, of Malawi, who founded Women’s Voices, and is now the Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa for the Organization of African Unity.

The selection criteria were strict, and the project team favoured “unknown, grassroots women,” who conduct direct, active peace work (as opposed to acting as coordinators) in their communities or regions. “We want particularly to honour women who perform largely unnoticed background work and who therefore receive little recognition.”

The criteria include altruism and selflessness as demonstrated qualities, and they stipulate that the woman must work “for the cause of peace and not for political or personal gain.”

Women of national and international reputation were not excluded from nominations, but 60% of nominees work at the grassroots (clan, ethnic community, neighbourhood, village or city) or regional level.

the nominees

Nine Canadians are included in the list of 1,000 women. This site will be bringing you their profiles next week:

  • Louise Arbour
  • Kama Steliga
  • Akua Benjamin
  • Marjorie (Maggie) Hodgson

In a couple of weeks:

  • Landon Pearson
  • Doreen Spence
  • Julia Morton-Marr

Please check out our archives for existing stories about Muriel Helena Duckworth and Maude Barlow.

remember this date

The Nobel Committee is expected to announce the winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize on October 14, 2005.

This feature was first published on section15.ca’s predecessor site CoolWomen.

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