by Yoon Joung Lee
Jody Williams, the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) was born in 1950 in Vermont. During her childhood, she was able to learn to hate injustice through her brother. Her brother was deaf and suffered from schizophrenia. At an early age, she witnessed that her fellow children harshly picked on her brother. Throughout this experience, she became dedicated to the cause of peace. She showed her passion while protesting the war being waged in Vietnam.
She received a BA from the University of Vermont. She also got her Master’s degree in teaching Spanish and English as a Second Language from the School for International Training in 1974. After completing her MA degree, she went to Mexico for two years to teach English. In Mexico, she, for the first time, saw extreme poverty. When she came back to the States from Mexico, she also taught English while she attended Johns Hopkins University and received her second master’s degree in International Relations in 1984.
However, the turning point when she passionately began to become involved in anti-war activities was when she received a leaflet on the street. The leaflet was about U.S. involvement in a civil war in El Salvador. Two years later, she became a Central America’s coordinator for the Nicaragua-Honduras Education Project and then became deputy director at Medical Aid for El Salvador.
In 1991, Williams was phoned by the president of Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Bobby Muller. He suggested for her to coordinate a new effort to ban landmines over the world. She became the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), formally launched by six nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 1992. Williams has overseen more than sixty countries with more than 1000 NGOs who work for an end to the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of mines. Williams continues to serve the ICBL as a campaign ambassador and editor of the organisation's landmine reports while she works as a distinguished professor of social work and global justice at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.
In 1997, the Norwegian Nobel committee named Williams and the ICBL as the recipients of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Her dedication and effort for peace did not stop with the Nobel Prize Award. In 2006, she co-founded The Nobel Women’s Initiative along with its sister organization Nobel Peace Laureates. These size women including Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigobetra Menchu Tum, Betty Williams, and Mairead Corrigan Maguire represent their extraordinary experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.