By: Sawyer Taylor-Arnold
The United Nations recognizes September 21 as International Day of Peace. This year’s theme is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity” and will focus on engaging and mobilizing people throughout the world to show support for refugees and migrants. In honor of International Day of Peace, here is a list of 5 women working toward peace around the world:
Shirin Ebadi is a lawyer and advocate of human rights for Iranian women, children, and political prisoners. She was originally the first woman in Iran to serve as a judge but lost her job after it was ruled that women could no longer serve as judges. Because of this, she set up her own law practice to help individuals through the law. In 2003, Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work advocating for human rights. However, after being threatened by the Iranian government and fearing for her safety, she left Iran. She currently lives in London teaching university courses on human rights. Read more on what Shirin has been up to here.
Imagine working at the age of 8 and teaching yourself a new language like Spanish. That’s exactly what Rigoberta Menchú Tum had to achieve to tell the world about her people’s suffering. She also managed to teach herself various Mayan languages/dialects to talk to more people and share their experiences. As a teenager she was involved in the women’s rights movement. Later she worked to organize and fight for indigenous peasant peoples’ rights. However, because she was so politically outspoken she had to flee to Mexico in fear for her safety. In 1992 she won the Nobel Peace Prize. I highly encourage you to read more about her work towards peace here.
Best known for leading a nonviolent movement to end Liberia’s civil war, Leymah Gbowee effectively brought together Christian and Muslim women during this movement and called it the “Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace”. Because of her work promoting peace, she was once almost jailed but her presence as a global leader of peace allowed her to participate in international conferences and meetings with the UN. She is also the 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate. Learn more about Leymah Gbowee here.
Mairead Maguire is well-known and respected for her work promoting peace in Ireland. At the age of 14, she was forced to drop out of school to work. While it was an obstacle for her, she persevered. After three of her nieces and nephews were killed due to religious conflict in Northern Ireland, she organized demonstrations to call for a nonviolent end to the conflict. Co-founding a movement called ‘Peace People’, she was able to promote peace in her country and spark a 70% decrease in the rate of violence. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work and throughout her life has continued to promote peace. You can learn more about her here.
A list of women working towards peace would not be complete without naming #GirlHero Malala Yousasfai. Earlier this year, Malala was named the youngest UN Messenger of Peace. Malala is from Pakistan and has been a fierce advocate for girls’ right to an education but also standing up for refugees and those who are victims of conflict. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her advocacy efforts making her the youngest recipient of this award. Learn more about the Malala Fund here.
While this is not a complete list of women working towards peace in our schools, communities and countries, we can however begin to take their leadership example to see how we can work towards achieving peace. I’m confident one day, one of us Girl Up club leaders like you and me will be a recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.