On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded its annual $1.5 million Peace Prize to three champions of women’s rights in Africa and the Middle East — a woman who stood up to Yemen’s autocratic regime, Africa’s first democratically elected female president, and a Liberian campaigner against rape.

Tawakkul Karman, 32, a journalist and mother of three, is the first Arab woman to win the prize. She’s helped lead anti-government protests against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and heads the human rights group Women Journalists without Chains.

The chairman of the committee said Karman’s award should be seen as a sign that women are important in the wave of anti-authoritarian revolts that have challenged Arab rulers.

“I am very very happy about this prize,” Karman told the Associated Press. “I give the prize to the youth of revolution in Yemen and the Yemeni people.”

Sharing the prize with her is Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72, the first woman to win a free presidential election in Africa. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University and has occupied top regional jobs at the World Bank, the United Nations and within the Liberian government.

Nicknamed “Iron Lady,” she’s viewed as a reformer and peacemaker in Liberia. “This gives me a stronger commitment to work for reconciliation,” she said.

“She deserves it many times over. She’s brought stability to a place that was going to hell,” said Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, while U2 frontman and activist Bono called Sirleaf “an extraordinary woman, a force of nature and now she has the world recognize her in this great, great, great way.”

The third prize recipient is Leymah Gbowee, 32, of Liberia, who campaigned against the use of rape as a weapon in her country’s brutal civil war. In 2003, she led hundreds of female protesters through Monrovia in an effort to disarm fighters who preyed on women during her country’s near-constant civil war.

She is a mother of five and works in Ghana’s capital as the director of Women Peace and Security Network. Her assistant, Bertha Amanor, said, “I know Leymah to be a warrior daring to enter where others would not dare.”

As prize creator Alfred Nobel deemed, the peace prize honors “work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Watch a video of the prize announcement below:

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