Jody Williams' 'Peace Jam' in Winchester

Blog by Elizabeth Ingrams

Jody Williams spoke at the university of Winchester's Peace Jam event on 13 March. Peace Jam is a new programme launched by Winchester centre of religions for reconciliation and peace (WCRRP) who have facilitated a new partnership with the 'Peace Jam Foundation' (PJ) this academic year.

Originating in the US, the Peace Jam organisation is a global organization to empower and inspire young people to become active citizens and agents for positive change. It has devised a 'peace curriculum' with an innovative and unique education programme for schools and youth groups. Peace Jam staff work alongside Nobel laureates and teachers to recruit young people to participate in devising and implementing small scale projects intended to bring about positive change.

Jody is joint winner, with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Since then she's been keen to use the accolade to promote peace around the world including the international campaign to stop rape. She is now professor of Peace and Social Justice at the graduate college of social work at the university of Houston, and a visiting fellow at the university of Illinois in Chicago. She has also co-founded the Nobel Women's Initiative.

In her talk at the University of Winchester, she focused on some of the key achievements of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL): 'When we became an organization of 1,300 NGOs, the diplomats were agitated because we were changing the way diplomacy was being conducted. The reason why I shared the prize jointly with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was because the committee hoped the model would be replicated around the world.'

ICBL is an association of partnerships started over 20 years ago, and now 162 nations are part of it and 40 nations are now landmine-free. Jody's partner Steve Goose, executive director of the arms division of Human Rights Watch, who was also present, corroborated that, 'whereas 26,000 people were killed each year because of landmines only 4,000 are being killed now.'

Jody spoke of her current work on banning killer robots and she had some key points to convey to young people. 'I think peace should be taught the moment that children go to school; that there is something other than a violent response to aggression. The destruction caused by war is not heroic.... but we allow that heroism through, for instance, Hollywood movies,' she said.

Finally, she encouraged young people to take action, while remaining true to themselves and their beliefs.

'In a world of phenomenal confusion, it becomes harder and harder to believe in the possibility of sustainable peace,' she said. 'You have to be active in change, and the more active you are the more fun it is. Use your energy and righteous indignation to change the world. In the Nobel Women's peace laureate initiative we have pooled our strengths together to support women. Has there ever been a Nobel Men's peace prize initiative?'

As Jody says, in her book, My Name is Jody Williams, she went from being an 'average woman', who decided to volunteer two hours a week, to someone who 'through perseverance, courage and imagination could make something extraordinary happen.'