PeaceJam Northwest to feature Nobelist Jody Williams

Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams

1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams — who earned the prize for her work establishing the International Campaign to Ban Landmines — will be at the University of Oregon on April 22-23 to headline the annual 2016 Northwest PeaceJam Conference.

This is the second year the UO has hosted the event in the Northwest; a one-day event was held on campus in fall 2014 that featured Auschwitz survivor Eva Kor and a two-day conference last April that featured 1992 Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum from Guatemala. Oregon State University hosted the conference from 2004 to 2012.

PeaceJam is an international organization founded in 1996 to school programs for middle school and high school students, create teacher trainings and offer the popular regional conferences each year. Conferences feature at least one Nobel Peace Prize or Laureate winner. The organization is led by 13 Nobel winners, including the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.

Around 300 young students age 14-18 from around the Northwest will gather on the UO campus to attend social justice workshops facilitated by college-age youth mentors, conduct community service projects in partnership with local organizations, and hear presentations by Williams and other leaders.

“I think it’s really important to engage youth in the local community to address social justice issues, particularly those issues that affect other children, both in their community but also in other states and other countries, to make sure other youth are aware of the realities outside their neighborhood,” said Namratha Somayajula, a PeaceJam youth mentor and UO undergraduate majoring in international studies. “I think they can play a really powerful role in addressing those issues, and PeaceJam is a great way for them to begin doing so.”

This will be Somayajula’s second year as a mentor. She joins around 40 other UO student mentors to lead workshops throughout the conference. Her work as a PeaceJam mentor not only benefits the young students she works with during the conference — about 20-25 students per workshop — but it’s also an important way to apply the theories she learns from her classes at the university.

“The high school and middle school students will be able to see that there are ample opportunities to engage with these issues after they graduate from their schools,” Somayajula said. “I also think that having college mentors engage with the youth is a good way to think about the concepts we’re learning (at the UO).”

For more information about the PeaceJam Youth Conference, or to register a student, contact Darren Reiley at northwest@peacejam.org or by phone at 541-337-6917.  The registration cost is $100 and must be done by April 15.

During her stay in Eugene, Williams will also be giving a public talk, titled “A Realistic Vision of World Peace,” in 156 Straub Hall. The lecture will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 22.  Admission is free, but space is limited.  Contact the UO Ticket Office to reserve a seat.

Williams’ work as the founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines has led to more than 150 nations around the globe to sign what is now known as the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use of antipersonnel landmines. She is also the founder of the Nobel Women’s Initiative; a coalition of female Nobel winners tackling women’s rights issues around the world.

PeaceJam Northwest is sponsored by the UO’s Division of Student Life, Division of Undergraduate Studies, Global Justice Program andDivision of Equity and Inclusion and by a grant from the Jubitz Family Foundation.

—By Nathaniel Brown, University Communications intern