The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Friday, 14 October 2011


“We have included the Arab Spring in this prize, but we have put it in a particular context.”
“Namely if one fails to include the women in the revolution and the new democracies, there will be no democracy.”
-- Peace Nobel 2011 Speech, Thorbjoern Jagland, October 7, 2011

All ingredients of an interesting analysis of Peace Nobel 2011 decision in place – the most popular sentiment and most logical demand heard – the Arab Spring honoured through one of the faces of protests in Yemen – and the decision was put in the particular context of women empowerment in places of the globe where they are most suppressed as Jagland puts it. Two of the women laureates of this year, Leymah Gbowee and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are from Liberia while one, Tawakkul Karman, is from Yemen.

A recent Newsweek ranking says the top 20 countries in its ‘the best places to be a woman’ study are all from Europe, America and Australia while the worst 20 countries are mostly from Africa (Chad on top), Asia and Arab nations. Yemen is placed at number 3 here. Kudos to Tawakkul Karman, the voice of Yemeni women!

So the Arab Spring that started from Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen found a face in Yemen’s Karman who has been waging a persistent fight against the regime as well organizing women to be part of the protest movements against despotic rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh. And the Nobel Committee had its obvious reasons to select Karman. It considered mass protests of the Arab Spring and the fairer sex absence leave alone some activists using the social media in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – the movements had no women ground workers of mettle equaling Karman. It is like recognizing positives of a movement and at the same time pointing to one of its main structural deformities (poor and suppressed representation of women) to squeeze out the maximum possible attention span on the problem.

The thirty something Karman is said to have a career of dissent against the despotic rule in Yemen, a society with almost half of the women population (1.03 male/female –sex ratio), where women are so suppressed that they are not allowed outside, not even to venture out to be put inside prison and that proved blessing in disguise as it led to the freedom of Karman when she was arrested January this year and that too, just in a day. But, on the whole it shows how pathetic conditions are there in Yemen for women to survive. And mobilizing women along with others for protests since 2006 is a major support to the civilian unrest that is gaining deeper base in Yemen.

The other two winners include a career politician and an activist. Again a thirty something Leymah Gbowee has been fighting for women rights in a country where 85% of the present women population is made of rape victims. When such is the ground reality of unstable days of Liberia, we can easily realize the scale of the work Leymah carried forward. She had led hundreds of women protestors through Monrovia to demand disarmament of soldiers preying on women and that was way back in 2003. And she has scaled up the movement since then now focusing mainly on women empowerment. Widely quoted and covered by the global media, she is one of the prominent faces of global women empowerment mission.  

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian President and first female head of an African country is a career politician and Americo-Liberian with luminous academic and professional record. Being finance professional, she worked with financial portfolios in her country as well as with major international bodies during her days of exile (days of Liberian civil war – 1989-2003 – that saw one-fourth of a million of the population killed and 85% of the women raped). When Charles Taylor was forced to resign in 2003 after a civil strife and under international pressure, she returned to Liberia to play active role in country’s politics. In 2005, she was elected to the office. It was a vote for change, on the line of her luminous career, her experience of handling financial portfolios and her connectivity to the developed world. She was voted above warlords like Prince Johnson who presided over the videotaped execution of Samuel Doe while holding can of beer - Doe was tortured, mutilated and killed, all on camera! She was chosen over Winston Tubman, the technocrat who says he would allow Charles Taylor, murderer of thousands to come back and settle in Liberia if the International Criminal Court acquits him.

She was voted to put on track a country devastated by prolonged and bloody civil war, to correct the ills of a society that had lost weaving of its fabric and above all, she was voted to feed a population fed largely on bullets, blood, wound and hunger.

And against this backdrop, she is fighting the election to get re-elected to the office and as analysts are predicting a real chance to other contenders like Tubman, questions are being put on the decision to award her the Peace Nobel. Sirleaf still enjoys wide support base in Liberia, especially among the women. And the reports, while writing this, say though she has slight edge in the election, she would not be able to get the necessary 50% votes that may necessitate the run-off vote on November 8. Media reports that went on frenzy to cover emotions from Liberia after the announcement had quotes like ‘awards like Nobel are irrelevant to the destitute Liberians’ or ‘it is a Western world’s fancy with Harvard educated Sirleaf’ or ‘stardom like status of Sirleaf while Liberia needs the sea-change is a joke’ or ‘the resulting Nobel complacency may push the reforms to even slower pace!’

Okay, there are supporting voices too and as the reports are coming in, with an edge to Sirleaf in the Liberian elections and a chance to retain the office, the Peace Nobel may push Sirleaf to do some real stuff on the ground now. What she has been able to achieve till date is macroeconomic reforms like wiping out country’s $5 billion debt, opening its diamond trade, inking major mining, oil exploration and pumping deals, and above all, ensuring a quiet Liberia during her tenure.

And it was evident the way Liberia voted this on October 11 – no violence, a free and fair election hailed by the UN and the international community. People waited in queues since midnight to vote and that shows the presence of vital signs of democracy in this civil war ravaged nation. A Peace Nobel will certainly gain mileage to Sirleaf as well as to Liberia to build on what has been achieved till date. And a Peace Nobel to two women of this county means giving voice not only to the half of the population of this county (1 male/female – 2011 sex ratio), but to many third world African countries as well as orthodox Arab nations.

Outcome of the Liberian election has one uncertainty – that, the violence of post-election rioting of 2005 due to unclear verdict may be revisited but Liberia has graduated since 2005 to organize free and fair elections on its own this time.

Being a party to the power equations is what makes someone or a group feel relevant and if Nobel committee thought to send this message before announcing the laureates, it was a logical outcome – on the line of Jagland’s statement - “..not necessarily a big name but a big mission – something important for the world..” – Indeed it is one big mission, across the borders, across the ethnic groups, fighting to uphold the humanitarian values that make both genders equal and persisting in this fight in places that may well be said Black Holes of women rights universe is like realizing a scientifically experimental knowledge of existence of the Black Hole – a tough task!

And here are three faces – three women no one was talking about before the decision was made public as Jagland had said – representing the voice of dissent in the land of despots, challenging their authority – in the land of that barbarian human race that believes in absolute supremacy of the male, challenging such baseless but deeply entrenched ethos. Awarding these three representatives of the oppressed class in the land of tyrants is like recognizing the good work done – of maintaining peace and harmony – as well as raising aspirations, not just of women, but of a continent of deprived human souls.

These three names and the symbolism associated with their field of work tell us the Nobel Committee this year chose to do away with controversies by selecting winners everyone would praise as Jagland had promised unlike the 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2009 decisions that invited much debate and controversies later on.