According to Wikipedia, Jody Williams (born 1950) is an American political activist known around the world for her work in banning anti-personnel landmines, her defense of human rights – especially those of women – and her efforts to promote new understandings of security in today’s world. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work toward the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines.
Jody Williams was interviewed for Time 10 Questions for a couple of years ago.
Jody Williams is a Nobel Peace laureate. She's received numerous honorary degrees. She's a founding chair at the Nobel Women's Initiative and now she's a memoirist. And she's here today to talk about her life as an activist and her book I am Jody Williams. Jody, thanks for being here.
Thanks for having me.
So you received the Nobel Peace Prize and nineteen ninety-seven for your work on the land mines ban.
You've written a lot of stuff about land mines including a couple of seminal texts about it. Why are you writing a memoir now?
I believe that anybody in the world can make a difference. I think there's too much of uh... mythology that
if you want to change the world you have to be sainted, like you know, Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela or archbishop Desmond Tutu. But the people I know who received the prize, including the archbishop
uh... they’re normal human beings, they just happen to have had, you know, passionate conviction about certain ways to make the world better for everybody and they followed them.
What was the tipping point for you that really made you become an activist?
Well, the first thing was uh... protesting the war in Vietnam. I was at university during, you know, the time the time of great social upheaval with Vietnam with um..., Martin Luther king and you know all of the great activists who were trying to stop racism in the United States. The reemergence of the women's movement and those were the things that marked my college years much more than the five different majors I tried to study as I was making my way through university. But then I kind of floundered for another decade until I was given a leaflet about El Salvador about US military intervention there in the
eighties. And i wouldn't have read it except it said El Salvador, another Vietnam?, with the question mark. And the fact that there was that juxtaposition made me read it and it changed my life forever.
When you were in El Salvador, you were sexually assaulted and you write about it in your memoir, you kinda sat for a while without telling anybody. How did it feel to get that story out there?
First of all, it was an assault by a member of the Salvadoran death squads. Death squads were a huge
part of the war in that country, but the purpose of the assault was to try to scare me into leaving the country, so that I would no longer represent my organization working with the poorer and, you know, supporting those who believed in democracy in the country, and it didn't work. You know the term dissociation, where you're able to dissociate your emotion? I do that very well and it comes from several experiences in my youth. My brother was born deaf and became a violent schizophrenic and adolescence. My response to that was too separate my feeling from what was happening. I'm still very good at it.
So you met your husband through your work ultimately.
Ultimately, I was forty-seven years old when I fell in love really, and that was with Stephen Douglas ....
Do you still work together closely?
Recently we have come together to take up the issue of killer robots. The US and other countries are starting to view the drone as like the model T of new technologies for warfare. OK, just think about the mentality of people sitting in a corporate headquarters outside of Washington DC or in some of our finest universities who are getting money from the Pentagon who are thinking of ways to create machines that on their own can kill human beings. We came to the conclusion that we needed to create a campaign to stop killer robots. And Human Rights Watch, the Nobel Women's Initiative I think seven other non-governmental organizations uh... are coming together to launch this campaign in London in April
What do you think about sort of social media activism and people who are using these platforms?
I think it's tool. Activism is not, you know, pushing a button to sign a petition online. I think they have their place but if that’s all that you do, that is not activism. Not at all. It takes people working together talking together, strategizing together to create overarching strategies for the long-term to create sustainable peace and that is not done by pushing a button on your computer.
Speaking of making a difference, you wanted to be the Pope when you were a little girl.
I liked this outfit. Awesome. You got to wear the thing around your outfit, the Pope hat, the whole thing. However, I married, I divorced, I’m heathenist, and I’m a girl.Bad combo.
I think that's a wonderful note to end on. Jody Williams thank you so much.
Thank you, it's been fun.