Betty Burkes – USA

Linked with Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom WILPF, and with the Hague Appeal for Peace HAP.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Betty Burkes (born 1943) is a lifelong educator and activist, working for a world where all human beings are celebrated for their brilliance and beauty, where people recognize their interconnectedness, where the earth is respected, and justice prevails. She has taught these principles in her Montessori preschool, brought them to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (as President, US section, and longtime board member), and used them in peace education in Albania, Cambodia, Niger, and Peru with the Hague Appeal for Peace/UN Department of Disarmament Affairs … (1000peacewomen 1/2).

She says: “We will succeed in building a strong base for transforming the politics of power when together we weave a vision that in practice offers a way of life so alive it is impossible to resist”.

Betty Burkes is the Rethink Curriculum Coordinator and leader of the Elders Circle that provides wisdom and guidance … (full text).


Betty Burkes – USA

She works for Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom WILPF, for the Hague Appeal for Peace HAP, and for the Cambridge Peace Commission.

Listen her video: Women’s Int’l League for Peace & Freedom, Betty Burkes, 9.35 min, 10 min – Feb 12, 2007.

Betty Burkes was born in Malvern, Ohio in 1943. She is African-American, descended from enslaved people and raised by working-class parents and loving grandmothers in the U.S. Midwest. While Betty and her family experienced the racism of exclusion endemic to small American towns in the 1940s and 1950s, her father was a symbol of respect within the community and an oasis for students of color, particularly international students from Africa. Grounded in love and high expectations from her family, Betty attended Ohio State University.

After college, she joined the Peace Corps and worked in Ethiopia as a teacher. She also taught in public schools in California and private schools in England. She founded the Montessori Paradise pre-school on Cape Cod, Massachusetts and directed it for 12 years, offering young children an enriching learning environment where peace-making and social justice mingled with the affirmation of childhood. Betty also co-founded and ran a Summer Arts and Music program on Cape Cod. She is a Trainer and Founding Member of “Transition for the 21st Century,” an association of professionals who design and conduct workshops for groups relating to issues of oppression.

Betty is a life-long educator and activist. She works for a world which embodies “the beloved community” – one in which all human beings are seen and celebrated for their brilliance and beauty, in which all people recognize their interconnectedness, where the earth is respected, and where principles of justice prevail. In particular, she has dedicated much of her energy toward the education of young children in peacemaking and global citizenship, and toward raising consciousness in her communities about racism, materialism, and other forms of inequity.

Betty served as Pedagogical Coordinator on a 3-year project for the Hague Appeal for Peace in partnership with the UN Department of Disarmament Affairs in four countries: Albania, Cambodia, Niger, and Peru (2002-05). All four countries have all suffered intense violence and repressive governments in the last decades.

The original mission of local organizations involved in this project was to disarm their communities by taking away the guns – sometimes making sculptures out of weapons collected. Over time the main emphasis shifted to the creation of programs that will strengthen the local community so that people can deal with problems differently in the future. A key element is work with young people to teach them alternative ways to handle conflicts so that they no longer need knives and guns to protect and defend themselves.

Betty and other program organizers have developed a curriculum of peace that has many aspects. Culture, where it was beaten down, is being revived. A sense of community is being brought back to the schools. Teachers and students are learning how to trust one another. Betty’s approach to peace education is to uncover people’s traditions of peace-making already present in their community and to create programming, build curricula, or organize work to bring these traditions to the surface and to honor them. Talking about this project, Betty quotes Kofi Anan as having said, “Education is, quite simply, peace building by another name. It is the most effective form of defense spending.”

Betty works at local, national, and international levels. Locally, she is currently a member of the Cambridge Peace Commission. She has been involved with Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) as a member of the Cape Cod branch. She was President of the U.S. Section of WILPF for three years and served on the National Board from l989-2002. She conducted workshops nationally and internationally on educating and organizing for action around issues of oppression and inequality.

Speaking at a Forum in Boston to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, in December 2001, she commented: “Fifty years after the Declaration of Human Rights was created … is a particularly wonderful time to pause and consider what’s happened since it was presented to the world.” She went on to inquire why rights needed to be defined and to ask, “What does that say about my estrangement and my isolation as one person in the community from the others in community?” She continued: “I can remember, in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, that there was a slogan, ‘We don’t care what you think; it’s how you act that matters.’ Thirty years later, I realize that if we don’t address what’s in other people’s hearts and minds, if we don’t engage each other in a dialogue, then all the declarations on human rights will not matter.”

Betty Burkes works through teaching. She designs and leads workshops; creates curricula; she is a gifted writer, an inspiring speaker, and a loving collaborator, at home in grassroots meetings and at international conferences. She has been honored with awards for anti-racism and peace-making, including the Fanny Lou Hamer Award honoring her anti-racism work, and the NAACP Community Service Award, and featured on the front cover of the June 2004 Hope magazine. Through her teaching and workshops, hundreds of children have grown up to work for a world of inclusion, justice and peace. Through her WILPF leadership, thousands of women have been inspired to work to end the scourges of weapons, violence and oppression rooted in economic injustice.

Her impact has been felt in eastern Massachusetts through a decade of weekly newspaper columns she penned, across the US from speeches at conferences on disarmament and through national publications featuring her work, and internationally through her voice at WILPF and the UN/HAP project. Her work with young children has been replicated by others in the field and disseminated through several movies that showcase her methods. Her work through the UN/HAP has spread disarmament strategies and peace education across four countries on four continents.

Betty Burkes is a life-long contributor to creating a world that embodies a global beloved community. Through peace education, global justice work and peace activism, Betty works to challenge the injustices of empires (especially the U.S.) and celebrate the peacemakers. Her approach is cooperative and includes decades of work with young children as well work with adults. Through a lifetime of spirit, Betty has touched the lives of thousands of people as she lives and shares her vision of empowerment for women and of a just world. (1000peacewomen 2/2).

WILPF’s Positions: WILPF envisions a world free violence, poverty, pollution and dominance. WILPF stands for equality of all people in a world free of racism, sexism and homophobia; the building of a constructive peace through world disarmament; and the changing of government priorities to meet human needs. Broad areas of concern are: Disarmament, Demilitarization and Good Governance, Environmental Sustainability, Global Economic Justice … (full text on wikipedia).

(Sorry, I can not disambiguate her with the many  persons found with the same name).


Google’s book-search for ‘Transition for the 21st Century‘, (worldwide);

HAP resources;

HAP Agenda.

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