March 17, 2015: The Social Justice Initiative at UIC welcomed Nobel Peace laureates Leymah Gbowee and Jody Williams to campus Monday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), a group whose first president was social reformer Jane Addams. The nonprofit organization, with 30 international branches that promote women’s contributions to global peace efforts, teamed with the Nobel Women’s Initiative to sponsor the day-long event at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum on campus.
More than 70 invited community activists, philanthropists, academics, and campus leaders joined the laureates for discussions of gender peace movements around the world and to strategize ways to bring about greater social justice. Gbowee, a 2011 Nobel recipient from Liberia, told the group that the celebration and Addams’ legacy as the first U.S. woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize brought two principles to the forefront: human rights and nonviolence. “When Jane Addams started the work that she did, I can just imagine it was not trending,” said Gbowee, a peace activist who help end the second Liberian civil war in 2003. “She began the entire conversation of people’s rights and that states should pay attention to it.” While addressing social justice progress, UIC historian Barbara Ransby reflected on the contemporary efforts of young people. “I am very uplifted by the brilliance, the courage, the determination to really build off the foundation of so many women who began fighting a hundred years ago,” said Ransby, director of the UIC Social Justice Initiative. “The spirit and legacy of those fights are very much the ground and foundation in which young women today are not only envisioning a better world, but demanding and making a better world for themselves and their communities.”
Those at the conference collaborated to develop a U.S. Peace and Freedom Statement that will be delivered next month during the league’s centennial congress at The Hague, Netherlands. Closing remarks were delivered by Williams, the first UIC Social Justice Initiative fellow, who received a Nobel Prize in 1997 for her international campaign to ban land mines. Other speakers included Eric Gislason, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost; Astrida Orle Tantillo, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Steve Everett, dean of the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts; Terry Mazany, Chicago Community Trust president and CEO, Jennifer Scott, director of Hull-House Museum, and Mary Harrison, U.S. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom section president.
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