PeaceJam Southeast to host Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakkol Karman

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman will speak at Florida State University about her efforts to improve peace and human rights in the Middle East and around the world.

IMAGE: Portrait of Tawakol Karman
Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakkol Karman

Karman will give a public talk on Friday, April 5 before spending the weekend with students from across the region for PeaceJam Southeast’s annual conference, themed “Stand Out, Speak Up.” Friday’s event, including a reception after the talk, is free and open to the public.

The public talk will take place on Friday, April 5 at 6 p.m. in the Augustus B. Turnbull Conference Center located at 555 W Pensacola Street, Tallahassee, FL.

Karman was born in 1979 in Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city. She grew up in a politically tumultuous country and witnessed the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990, followed by a civil war between the two factions in 1994, in which the North triumphed over the South. The civil war led to dissidence in the South as the repressive Northern government assumed control over the country. A journalist by profession and human rights activist by nature, Karman responded to the political instability and human rights abuses in Yemen by mobilizing others and reporting on injustices. In 2005, Karman founded the organization Women Journalists Without Chains, which advocates for rights and freedoms and provides media skills to journalists.

In 2007, Karman began organizing weekly protests in Yemen’s capitol, Sana’a, targeting systemic government repression and calling for inquiries into corruption and other forms of social and legal injustice. Karman’s weekly protests continued until 2011, when she mobilized protesters to support the Arab Spring, a movement calling for government reform across the Middle East and Northern Africa. Karman was arrested several times, including on Jan. 22, 2011 when she was accused of disturbing Yemen's peace and social security. She was set free after large-scale protests demanded her release. 

When Karman was awarded the prize in 2011 at the age of 32, she became first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, the second Muslim woman, and the youngest peace laureate at the time. Karman is known as "The Mother of the Revolution" for her in nonviolent struggle to ensure the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work in Yemen. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize concurrently with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee.

Since winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Karman has continued her work supporting female journalists and advocating against corruption. She continues to speak out against the civil war and ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen in major op-eds, international forums, and on Twitter @TawakkolKarman.

At the talk, Karman will present Florida State University with the PeaceJam Foundation’s inaugural Innovative Leadership Award for its outstanding PeaceJam student leadership program, which it notes as a model across the United States and the world.  

PeaceJam student leaders at Florida State have hosted Nobel Peace Laureates at 10 Leadership Conferences, transforming the lives of nearly 10,000 students.  

Parallel to the youth conference, the PeaceJam Foundation will host an intimate summit of youth leaders advocating for gun safety in the United States. These prominent young activists, who first convened in November at the Youth Summit on Gun Violence in the Americas with Nobel Laureate Jody Williams in Costa Rica, will benefit from the mentorship of Karman, host a workshop, engage in meaningful dialogue with their peers from the Southeast region during the annual Peacejam Southeast youth conference. 

PeaceJam is an international education program built around Nobel Peace Prize laureates who work personally with youth to pass on the spirit, skills and wisdom they embody. The goal of PeaceJam is to inspire a new generation of leaders who will transform themselves, their local communities and the world. The Center for Leadership & Social Change at Florida State University serves as the headquarters for PeaceJam’s Southeast affiliate. 

The mission of the Center for Leadership & Social Change is to transform lives through identity development, leadership education and community engagement.  The center runs more than 30 programs for students, faculty and staff to develop skills to create positive, sustainable change in their communities.