UNITED NATIONS - Four women and three women's
from war-torn and conflict-ridden nations are first winners of the
Millennium Peace Prize for Women, to be awarded Thursday.
The prize, the first of its kind, is a global award to honour
that women play in peace-building and the indispensable
have made to resolving and preventing conflicts.
While the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded since 1901, only
10 of the
approximately 106 winners have been women or women's
The Millennium Peace Prize, conferred for the first time on
International Women's Day Thursday, acknowledges women's
finding innovative alternatives to war, holding communities
bridging ethnic divides.
The award will highlight the often invisible heroic efforts
undertake to end conflicts, said Noeleen Heyzer, executive
the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) on the occasion of the
The prize is being launched as a joint initiative between UNIFEM
London-based non-governmental organisation International Alert
with organisations and individuals to identify the root causes of
and contribute to the just and peaceful transformation of violent
The first Millennium Peace Prize recipients are Flora Brovina
Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani (Pakistan); Venerananda
(Rwanda), Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres (Colombia), the Leitana
Development Agency (Papua New Guinea), and Woman in Black (based
''These women symbolise the future of our dream for this
adversity can be surmounted and peace can be achieved,''emphasised
''The prize winners are important role models for millions of
the world who are engaging in strategies for peace at the local
Despite the many challenges they face, women across Asia,
and North and South America are already at the forefront of many
''In some cases, women have succeeded in collecting arms in
hot meals, or they have relentlessly demonstrated and appealed for
violence to stop ... Others have formally joined peace
ensure that new constitutions include such legal protections for
girls as access to education, land and property rights and at
representation in public office,'' Heyzer emphasised.
However, even as women around the world are finding many new
express their ideas and concerns, women's priorities in countries
from armed violence continue to be marginalised.
This occurs in large part because women's voices are rarely
heard at the
peace table, UNIFEM said in a recent publication entitled
'Women At the Peace Table, Making a Difference'.
''Larger numbers of women must be invited to shape peace
stressed Kevin Clements, secretary general of International Alert.
vision of peace can we expect if only half of the population is
in the process?'' he continued.
''While women are affected disproportionately by violent
not passive victims, as they are so often portrayed,'' explained
The women who have come to New York to receive the Peace Prize
inspirational leaders and representatives of organisations that
how to transcend conflict and strengthen our commitment to
healthy communities, said Heyzer.
Brovina of Kosovo is the president of the League of Albanian
Kosovo, a non-political organisation she founded in 1992 to assist
Albanian women. Brovina was accused of and imprisoned for
clothing and medical supplies for the Kosovo Liberation Army
Jahangir and her sister Jilani helped to found the Women's
Action Forum to
help women obtain divorces from abusive husbands. In 1986 they co-
the Pakistan Human Rights Commission.
Nzambazamariya, who died last year in a Kenya Airways crash off
dedicated herself to empowering women politically and
economically, and to
restructuring and sensitising Rwanda's imbalanced political,
social infrastructures and laws that were biased against women.
The Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres movement ensures that women's
plans for peace and co-existence reach influential circles in
The Leitana Nehan Women's Development Agency has been a
keystone in the
process of peace negotiations and reconstruction in Bougainville,
Guinea since the 1990's. The island has been home to a rebellion
the Papua New Guinea government.
Finally, Women in Black is a worldwide network sponsoring
resistance, which inspires women in different parts of the world
action and non-violent protest.
On Wednesday, prizewinners met with U.S. congresswomen at a
Capitol Hill where the topic of discussion was women and
The prizes will be officially awarded at a gala gourmet dinner
evening at the U.N. delegates Dining Room. CNN anchor Maria
and actress Dana Reeve will serve as mistresses of ceremonies, and
celebrities Glenn Close and Lee Grant are expected to be among
presenting prizes to the winners.
Copyright 2001 IPS