Activist used Internet to push ban on land mines Nobel laureate Williams tells of crusade at Goucher

October 21, 1998|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

In her drive to ban land mines, Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams turned to the Internet to move her cause forward rapidly.

"You can't spend time doing regular mail," Williams told students at Goucher College yesterday. "I started using the fax machine because it was easier for me to stand at the fax than to stuff envelopes and go to the post office. Then e-mail came along in 1994 and we reduced our fax bills by thousands of dollars."

Williams, who won the prize a year ago, gave three lectures at the small, private Towson campus of 1,100 students about her high-tech efforts to push an international ban on the use of anti-personnel mines.

Battling jet lag after a business swing through Spain, Belgium and Boston, the 48-year-old Vermont native -- recently named among America's most influential women by Vanity Fair magazine -- recalled how her crusade took root in November 1991 and peaked with the Nobel Prize.

"It was a campaign of one," she said. "It required creative thinking and bulldozing people."

The e-mails included pep talks and first-person accounts. At times, she even had confrontations over the Internet that prompted her to fly halfway around the world to lobby people personally, she said.

Williams described herself as strong-willed and said she became aware of the destruction from land mines as a human rights activist in Central America in the 1980s.

"I want to make people believe that they can make a difference," she said. "When I graduated from college, I was a dental assistant. I didn't discover what I wanted to do until I was 31 years old."

She was hired by Vietnam Veterans of America in 1991 to work for the land mine ban.

Use of the Internet helped get her message to remote countries and keep pressure on governments that balked at signing the treaty banning land mines, she said; 133 countries have signed the treaty.

Pub Date: 10/21/98

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