Niederlande: Shelley J. Anderson

By training women and helping women develop the skills they need in active nonviolence, they will be better equipped to work in their own communities for peace.

— Shelley J. Anderson

At the heart of the Women Peacemakers Program (WPP) and Shelley Anderson’s approach is dialogue and listening. “We actively ask the women we work with ‘What do you need?’ and really try to listen,” she says. The requests for nonviolence training are increasing every year. Since the WPP began in 1997, they have trained at least 15,000 people.

“As a white western woman – especially at the beginning, when I went to places like Cambodia or Ghana to do a training – I thought I cannot tell people from Sierra Leone and Liberia what nonviolence is. They were right in the middle of a war. What opened my eyes was when I started to talk about what I knew about nonviolence,” Shelley Anderson recalls. “People were so hungry for a nonviolent alternative to war. Women came up to me and said, ‘This has changed my life. I always felt there was a better way, that there had to be an alternative to what was happening, but I did not know there was a word for it.’ They did not know there were books about nonviolence or real studies about Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi, that there were theories about it, and that there were actual trainings for nonviolence. I can remember a woman friend who went to Burma to train underground democracy activists. She also felt hesitant, but she just started sharing what she knew. The students asked why they had not been told these things before. They said if they had known maybe the people’s uprising in 1988 would not have been so violent. That really opened my mind. People are very hungry. They want and are desperately looking for alternatives. I think that is one reason why the requests for nonviolence training are increasing.” A defining moment for Shelley Anderson was when “two young women from Sierra Leone, both refugees, came up to me and said, ‘Learning about nonviolence has changed my life. Now, I know what I am supposed to do, now I know what I can do.’ They have gone back to Sierra Leone and they are doing a lot of nonviolence trainings. They are trainers now.”

International Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Women Peacemakers Program (IFOR WPP)