Here are two views from two Yemeni women on Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman, the first Arab woman, and first Yemeni, to win the prize.
Tawakkol Karman is a mother of three and has been protesting against the Saleh regime years before the revolution began. She has been the face of the revolution since and is now the first Arab woman to receive a Nobel Peace prize.
Karman chairs the Women Journalists Without Chains organization that defends human rights and freedom of expression and also includes the freedom to protest; something which she has proven to have mastered. Speaking on the revolution Karman says “It’s like a volcano. Injustice and corruption are exploding while opportunities for a good life are coming to an end.”
Karman was awarded the prize for her peaceful approach to the downfall of Saleh. Ever since 2007 she has protested every week without fail, alone or surrounded by crowds. Talking on Al Jazeera on the day of her prize, she emphasised the future of Yemen is through peace and nothing less.
Needless to say those surprised by this news are those who are oblivious to the rich history of this great land. The land ruled by the greatest female leader of all time, Queen of Sheba, Queen Balqees. Did we seriously expect anything less of the daughters of Queen Sheba? For far too long we, as Yemeni females have been unwillingly and falsely branded to be oppressed behind the veil. Today, Tawakkol Karman stands as a symbol of the power of the Yemeni and Arab woman. Today Tawakkol has reached for into the West, opening the eyes of the blind and reaching the ears of the deaf.
As a Yemeni myself I am not at all surprised by this strong persona. Every year I travel to Yemen and while I do meet a few oppressed women, a ‘Tawakkol Karman’ does pop up every now and then. I, as a Yemeni know there are many, many sisters like Karman who are full of passion and determination to fight battles and cross oceans in the name of justice, freedom and equality. These females DO exist in Yemen, there are thousands of Tawakkol Karman’s in Yemen. The prize giving will empower and uplift these hidden gems, and pretty soon we will know exactly who the daughters of the Queen of Sheba are.
Sanasino is a poet, for more of her work and her writings visit her blog
In a region where women are underrepresented, and in many countries often overlooked, Tawakkol Karman emerges as a beacon for Arab women. Despite no legal restrictions on women, Yemeni society is one where men are dominant in most spheres of society and where in many regions in Yemen, the notion still exists that women should be seen and not heard – which has been vehemently challenged in the last 9 months of the Yemeni Uprising
Tawakkol Karman, a mother of three, challenges the traditional role of a woman through her ardent activism in campaigning for human rights, women’s rights and more famously, against Saleh’s regime, which has inspired many Arab women, especially Yemeni women, to question their role in society and to take a more active role in shaping the future of their countries. Karman’s arrest in January was a warning by Saleh’s regime hoping to scare her into silence; however, Yemeni women came out in their hundreds to support her release.
This prize could not have been awarded to Karman at a better time, particularly for Yemen, as The 2011 Global Women’s Progress report states that of the worst countries in the world to be a woman, Yemen ranks 3rd. Her achievement will hopefully pave a more welcoming, supported path to work towards empowering Yemeni Women and Arab Women alike. The other significance of Karman’s achievement is that she is the youngest person to have ever received the Nobel Peace Prize, which is testament to the role that the various Youth Movements in the Arab Spring have played.
Karman, is rightfully one of the faces of the Arab uprising, but more importantly she is a symbol of change for the youth and women in the Middle East. Being the first Arab woman to receive the prestigious award, not only is it symbolic as an international illustration of approval toward the Arab Spring, more importantly it is also a symbol of change for the role of Women in the Arab World. As Jagland, the chairmen of Nobel stated, “The Arab Spring cannot be successful without including the women in it.”
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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