"Wherever there is injustice, there is anger, and anger is like gasoline -- if you spray it around and somebody lights a matchstick, you have an inferno. But anger inside an engine is powerful: it can drive us forward and can get us through dreadful moments and give us power. I learnt this with my discussions with nuclear policy makers." -- Scilla Elworthy
At the age of 13, Dr. Scilla Elworthy
was horrified and catalyzed by the violence she witnessed as Soviet tanks invaded Budapest to quell the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. At age 16 her mother sent her to work at a holiday home for concentration camp survivors. Ever since then, she has devoted her life to promoting peaceful alternatives to conflict and to developing nonviolent means of resolution, and has become one of the guiding visionaries of our time.
A native of Scotland, Dr. Elworthy earned degrees in the social sciences as well as political science. On college vacations she worked in refugee camps in both France and Algiers. Her varied early background -- preparing her for her later place on a world stage -- included chairing Kupugani, a South African nutrition education organization; organizing the building and launch of the Market Theatre
, South Africa's first multiracial theater; serving as a consultant to UNESCO on women's issues; and establishing the Minority Rights Group
in France. In 1978 she researched and delivered the Group's report on female genital mutilation
, leading to the World Health Organization
campaign to eradicate the practice.
Dr. Elworthy translated these early experiences and commitment to peacemaking into her current roles as a visionary, path-breaking changemaker operating at the highest levels of the world stage. In 1982, she founded the Oxford Research Group
, an organization that independently researched decision-making on security in the five major nuclear nations during and after the Cold War and brought together policy-makers, academics, the military and civil society to engage in dialogue with their critics. For this work she was nominated three times for the Novel Peace Prize. In 2002, she founded Peace Direct
, dedicated to supporting peacebuilders and stopping war in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions -- in connection with which she was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize
in 2003. And Dr. Elworthy co-founded FemmeQ
, built on the feminine qualities of compassion, listening, inclusivity, interconnectedness, and intuition.
Drawing on her extensive work as a world peacemaker, Dr. Elworthy then served from 2005 to 2009 as advisor to Peter Gabriel, Desmond Tutu and Richard Branson in setting up The Elders
, "an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity." Her work for the World Peace Festival in 2011 included building seven achievable goals for the Global Peace Building Strategy, adopted by the World Peace Partnership. Dr. Elworthy designed the program for an international two-day conference on peacebuilding, the first day entitled "Peace is your business!"
Dr. Elworthy is a member of the World Future Council
and in 2012 co-founded Rising Women Rising World
, a growing, vibrant community of women on all continents who draw on feminine wisdom to take responsibility for building a world that works for all. She has written, edited and contributed to a wide array of articles, reports and books. Her latest book, Pioneering the Possible: Awakened Leadership for a World That Works
, is on sacred activism, and her TEDx talk
on nonviolence has well over a million views. Her life has been dedicated to promoting wisdom in action and collective "waking up" through the development of inner awareness
, and by changing the way we relate to one another on a global scale.
Join us in conversation with this remarkable visionary and peace-builder!
Five Questions with Scilla Elworthy
What Makes You Come Alive?
At Peace Direct we support people stopping war in many areas of hot conflict around the world. Their incredible courage moves me deeply and makes me come alive - people like Henri Bura Ladyi in the DR Congo, an ex-child soldier who now goes deep into the bush to rescue boys and girls who have been kidnapped by militias. I also love working with people who have more money than they need, and helping them direct it to initiatives that are making a profound difference in bringing peace to a troubled world. I also love supporting capable women to become mediators and negotiators of peace treaties in war torn countries.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
When I was 13 I was watching a grainy old black and white TV as the Soviet tanks invaded Budapest to quell the 1956 Hungarian revolution. I saw teenagers mowed down and crushed. I rushed upstairs and started packing my suitcase. My mother cam up and asked what I was doing. "I'm going to Budapest!" (I had no idea where Budapest was). "What for?" she asked. "Something so terrible is happening there, I HAVE TO GO!" "Don't be so silly" she said - and I started to cry. Bless her, she got it. She got how much I cared. So she said "You're too young to help. You have to get trained. I'll help you to get trained, if you just unpack your suitcase." And she did. Aged 16 she sent me off to work in a holiday home for concentration camp survivors, and I went on from there...
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
In 1974, just after my daughter was born, I got a brain disease called encephalitis and was in a coma for two weeks. For several years I had such shattering headaches I could hardly function. My husband looked after me with such great patience and kindness that was able to recover.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
To help stop our obscene expenditure on militarisation of the planet, currently more than US$1,686 billion - when only 30 billion would stop hunger and starvation around the world.
One-line Message for the World?
If you want peace, don't talk to your friends, talk to your enemies. (Desmond Tutu)