Born in 1950 in Vermont, USA., Jody Williams learned to hate injustice at an early age when she witnessed fellow school children ruthlessly bullying her brother who was deaf and suffered from schizophrenia.

Williams spent eleven years on various projects related to the wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador, where, according to the Encyclopedia of Human Rights, she “spent the 1980s performing life-threatening human rights work.”

Professor Williams served as the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) from early 1992 until February 1998. From its small beginning and official launch in 1992, Williams and the ICBL dramatically achieved the campaign’s goal of an international treaty banning antipersonnel landmines during a diplomatic conference held in Oslo in September 1997.

Currently, 164 countries have signed the treaty. Nations yet to sign include Russia, India, and China and the United States (who recently announced that it will abide by the major obligations of the treaty everywhere except on the Korean Peninsula).

In discussing what led to her interest in anti-landmine work, Williams stated:
“Landmines distinguish themselves because once they have been sown, once the soldier walks away from the weapon, the landmine cannot tell the difference between a soldier or a civilian — a woman, a child, a grandmother going out to collect firewood to make the family meal.”

Williams believes that peace is defined by human (not national) security and that it must be achieved through sustainable development, environmental justice, and meeting people’s basic needs.

To this end, she co-founded the Nobel Women’s Initiative, endorsed by six of seven living female Peace laureates, chairing the effort to support activists, researchers, and others working toward peace, justice, and equality for women and thus humanity.

In 2004, she was named by Forbes magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world. Professor Williams continues to be recognised for her contributions to human rights and global security and continues to fight for the total global eradication of landmines.

“I think there’s a mythology that if you want to change the world, you have to be sainted, like Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela or Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Ordinary people with lives that go up and down and around in circles can still contribute to change.”