Jody Williams is an American political activist. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution in banning and clearing anti-personnel landmines. Williams has visited over 70 countries, lecturing about the danger of landmines and exposing millions of unexploded landmines all over the world in order to encourage new perceptions of human security. She has been an advocate of peace and a defender of human and civil rights—particularly those of women. She fights to reclaim the true meaning of peace, which is a concept far beyond the lack of wars in today’s world. Jody Williams is the founding director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which was officially initiated by six nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). She has also taken the lead in launching the ‘Nobel Women’s Initiative’ which encourages and endorses the works of women who fight for justice and equality. Williams writes extensively and has numerous articles published in various newspapers and magazines like ‘Wall Street Journal’, ‘International Herald Tribune’, ‘The Independent’ (UK), ‘The Irish Times’, and ‘The Toronto Globe’. The ‘Glamour’ magazine has recognized Jody Williams as a ‘Woman of the Year’ twice, along with other eminent personalities like Hillary Clinton and Barbara Walters.
Childhood & Early Life
Jodie Williams was born on October 9, 1950, in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA. His father was a country judge and her mother supervised public housing projects.
She was the second of her parent’s five children. Her youngest brother was deaf and a schizophrenic patient. Williams was deeply affected by the sufferings of her brother and this is what enabled her to think about the unfortunate from a very young age.
In 1972, she graduated from the University of Vermont with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
In 1976, she received a Master’s Degree in Teaching Spanish and ESL from the School for International Training in Vermont.
In 1984, she completed her Post graduation studies in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.
She took up different teaching jobs in Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Washington D.C. and even worked temporarily as a secretary before deciding on a career of political activism.
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In 1984, Jody Williams became a co-ordinator of the Nicaragua–Honduras Education Project.
In 1986, she became the deputy director of Medical Aid for El Salvador.
In November 1991, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and Medico International Williams approached her to direct an international campaign against antipersonnel landmines.
In October 1992, Williams became the founding coordinator of the project: International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). The campaign began with the mission of signing an international treaty that would stop the production and distribution of landmines as weapons of wars.
Williams spent the next few years by seeking the support of government and NGO leaders all over the world and discussing the hazards of landmines at the European Parliament and the Organization for African Unity.
In September 1997, Williams succeeded in signing a treaty to ban landmines at the diplomatic conference held in Oslo.
In February 1998, Williams became a campaign ambassador for ICBL and also joined the organization’s coordination committee as a senior editor of the group's ‘Landmine Monitor Report’, which supervises the Mine Ban Treaty.
She also started working with nine other Nobel Laureates on Peacejam, an educational project to motivate young peace activists.
In 2003, she began a four–year term as the visiting professor of social work and global justice at the University of Houston's Graduate School of Social Work.
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From January 2006 she has been serving as the chair of the ‘Nobel Women’s Initiative’.
In 2007 she was selected as a leader of the United Nations High-Level Mission to look into human rights abuses in the Sudanese region of Darfur.
Since 2007, Williams has been the Sam and Cele Keeper Professor in Peace and Social Justice at the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston.
In 1995, Jody Williams co-authored an influential book on the socioeconomic influence of land-mine crisis in four countries, ‘After the Guns Fall Silent: The Enduring Legacy of Landmines’.
In March 2008, she published ‘Banning Landmines: Disarmament, Citizen Diplomacy and Human Security’, which examines the Mine Ban Treaty and its impact on other human security- related work.
Apart from these, she has also contributed chapters in several books like ‘This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women’; ‘A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer’; Lessons from our Fathers’; ‘Girls Like Us: 40 Extraordinary Women Celebrate Girlhood in Story, Poetry and Song’.
In March 2013, she released her memoir, ‘My Name Is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize’.
Awards & Achievements
She and ICBL succeeded in getting over 100 countries including Britain, France and Germany to sign the treaty to ban landmines. This agreement bound international law faster than any previous treaties and entered into force in 1999.
Jody Williams’ earnest persistence was rewarded in 1997 when she and the ICBL were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their outstanding achievements in the fields of arms control and disarmament. She became the tenth woman and the third American woman to receive the Prize.
In 2004, she was recognized by ‘Forbes’ magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world.
She was responsible for organizing US relief projects for providing free care to wounded children of the El Salvador war.
Personal Life & Legacy
Apart from the fact that she had a short-lived marriage with her high-school sweetheart for three years, very little is known about her personal life.
Bill Clinton, the then President of the United States was against the treaty and did not call to congratulate Jody Williams on her Nobel Prize win.