Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia; Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian activist; and Tawakkul Karman, a Yemeni journalist, are the new faces of the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

In more than a century of its existence, the Norwegian Nobel committee has awarded the honor to only 12 women. The last one to date was Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan ecologist who died last week at 71.

With this award, the Nobel committee has innovated; first by awarding the prize to three people at the same time, then to three women and, last but not least, to three women from the south. “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” said committe chairman Thorbjrn Jagland.

These three women have managed in different ways to maintain peace and fight for women’s rights in their countries.

Sirleaf is the president of Liberia and was the first woman to be democratically elected president of an African country. First elected in 2006, she managed to maintain peace in Liberia and ended the civil war there.

“Since her inauguration in 2006, she has contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development and to strengthening the position of women,” said the Nobel committee’s announcement.

In fact, she is aiming to rebuild peace on four pillars: “security, primacy of rights and governance, economical reflation and reconstruction of infrastructure.”

Her election as president was likely thanks to the work of Gbowee, the second winner of the prize. Gbowee founded a feminist pacifist movement in Liberia to end the civil war. She is most recognized for leading a sex strike during the war, calling for Liberian women to refuse to have sex until their husbands gave up the hostilities.

“Gbowee mobilized and organized women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia and to ensure women’s participation in elections,” stated the announcement.

Karman, the third winner, is a journalist and human rights activist. In 2005, she founded a movement called Women Journalists Without Chains to promote human rights and advocate for freedom of expression.

She played an important role in the “Arab Spring,” organizing rallies to bring down the Yemeni government.

“Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen,” acknowledged the committee.

By awarding these three women the Nobel Prize, the committee hopes they “will help bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.”

The awards ceremony will be held in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10.