(OSLO, Norway) -- The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was split three ways between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman -- three women who have fought tirelessly to organize women for human rights.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the 24th and current president of Liberia and the only elected female head of state in Africa. She is currently running for reelection to a second term on Oct. 11 against 15 other candidates. A Harvard-educated economist, Sirleaf is praised for the growth Liberia has seen since its devastating 14-year civil war; she is expected to win a second term.
Leymah Gbowee is an African peace activist who was a key figure in organizing the movement to bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War. Beginning in 2002, Gbowee began the peace movement by organizing women to pray for peace through non-violent protest and prayers for peace.
Tawakul Karman, is a Yemeni journalist and human rights activist, who works for the release of political prisoners in her home country, organizing demonstrations and sit-ins. One of the loudest voices in the Yemeni protests, she has received several death threats and has became a major figurehead of the ongoing Arab Spring opposition. A 32 year-old mother of three, she is one of the youngest to receive the prize.
The women were awarded the prize on Friday for their "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work."
The announcement of the three women as shared recipients of this year's prize came as a surprise, as a number of well-known contenders were rumored to be the winners, including Bradley Manning, Mark Zuckerberg and even President Obama for a second time.
According to insiders, the frontrunners for the Peace prize this year included Israa Abdel Fattah, cofounder of the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni, and Egyptian Google executive Wael Ghonim.
Other names that were in the mix were Afghan human rights campaigner Sima Samar, Burmese opposition leader and previous winner Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Zimbabwean prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and ex-German chancellor (and perennial nominee) Helmut Kohl.
Organizations can also be awarded the prize, and the Russian civil rights group Memorial, and the European Union, were believed to be in the running this year.
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