ON MOTHERHOOD: LAURA BOILLOT
Advocate for humanitarian disarmament and weapons issues.
Her work in disarmament started with small arms at the Cluster Munitions Coalition to ban the use and stockpiling of cluster bombs which represent a large portion of the 80 million unexploded bombs in Laos. Today, Laura's mission remains humanitarian disarmament, advocating for international commitment not to use heavy explosive weapons in populated areas such as towns and cities and the improvement of the lives of people caught in conflict. At home, she is devoted to family time with her husband and three girls, living each moment with intention, whether at home or during adventures across Europe in the family Volkswagen campervan.
Where I live now in the UK. As long as I have family and friends around me, I feel settled.
On work and purpose—
I started off working on gun control and the international arms trade, it was a topic I became interested in when studying and volunteering.
Today, I work for Article 36, a not-for-profit organization. We look at issues concerning weapons, disarmament and the protection of civilians. The weapons we focus on is based on evidence of the humanitarian impacts on people, and civilians in particular, but we also look at emerging weapons technologies —so what is in development as well as what is already in use. And we advocate for states to develop stronger laws and international standards to prevent harm, we have been pretty successful at that.
As part of this work, I coordinate the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) which is a group of NGOs concerned about the bombing and shelling of populated areas such as towns and cities. We collaborate with other NGOs in international civil society coalitions, there are a number of coalitions that identify as "humanitarian disarmament" campaigns. This focus on the humanitarian impact and focus on improving people's lives, and approaching how we work in new and innovative ways that break from traditional diplomatic processes really motivates me, along with all the talented people I get to work with.
"This focus on the humanitarian impact and focus on improving people's lives, and approaching how we work in new and innovative ways that break from traditional diplomatic processes really motivates me."
On the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize—
Winning the Nobel Peace Prize has been a huge boost to ICAN and a recognition of the work by many to bring about the ban treaty (the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons). The ban treaty builds on the previous humanitarian disarmament treaties, like the prohibitions on antipersonnel landmines, and cluster munitions, and shows what can be achieved by a committed group of civil society organizations and states working together. It is a prestigious award, and has helped further efforts to get more countries to sign and ratify the treaty. Our current focus is reaching the threshold of 50 ratifications which is needed for the treaty to enter into force — we're at 23 at the moment. While it seems unlikely that any of the nuclear weapon possessor states will join at this point, it helps to stigmatize nuclear weapons and erode their legitimacy.
"...being involved in the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) during the negotiations of the 2008 treaty that bans cluster bombs has had a huge influence on me... I get to work with people from all sorts of countries and backgrounds - culturally but also people who have directly experienced the impact of armed violence."
We love our summer holidays in our Volkswagen campervan. We've holidayed in the van most summers for the past ten years. We've gone through a few vans now, getting bigger in size as the family grows, and have traveled across Europe, to the Balkans - our favorite destination, but also France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland. We had a great holiday last year in the Dolomites region of Italy among mountains and lakes, and this summer we are planning to go to the west coast of Sweden to do some wild camping.
On a formative memory—
On a personal level moving to Sweden when I was 13 was life-changing. I was not at all keen on moving initially, and it was a big change for our family which took some adjusting for all of us, but I made lifelong friends, learnt another language and really loved growing up there. I still have a strong affinity for Sweden.
Professionally, being involved in the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) during the negotiations of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (the treaty that bans cluster bombs) has had a huge influence on me and the work I am involved in. I get to work with people from all sorts of countries and backgrounds - culturally but also people who have directly experienced the impact of armed violence, and I have learnt a lot through this work and the treaty negotiations. It was an intense process but a lot of fun too!
"change... is needed to better support working parents and promote gender equality subsidized childcare costs, better provisions for paid parental leave (including for fathers)... This is my next campaign."
On the transformation to motherhood—
I think becoming a family unit has been a huge and very positive to care for our children and less about ourselves, and how we spend our time changes. No more lazy weekends reading the papers and having a quiet coffee together, now we're woken up to make banana pancakes and then clear up all the mess that entails! I think I probably also spend more time with my family— parents and sister. I am lucky as we are all very close and spend a lot of time together, and they love to spend time with our girls.
On the intersection of motherhood and work—
Well, it has mostly affected my work on a practical level, trying to find the right balance... I cut my hours to work 4 days a week, and my husband has done the same. We did this to spend more time with our children and to save on the extortionate cost of childcare. Organising childcare when I travel is a bit of an operation, and we rely a lot on help from very supportive family and friends as well as a great childminder, babysitter, after school clubs etc. We are very fortunate to have a wonderful network around us and have employers that are flexible and accommodating. But it has made me think about change that is needed to better support working parents and promote gender equality — subsidized childcare costs, better provisions for paid parental leave (including for fathers) would have a hugely positive impact both at work and at home. This is my next campaign!
Their specific needs change. When they are very little they need constant care but of course they become more independent when they are a little older, and develop interests in spending time with their friends and away from their immediate family. I have a newborn baby that is pretty much attached to me, and a nearly four and a seven-year old who are both extremely keen to hang out with all their friends and family all of the time! But at any age they need our time, attention, and love.
"When I return to work I am looking forward to taking part in and negotiations for an international commitment to stop the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas."
I am not a particularly romantic person, but I love spending time with the people I love —laughing, eating, cooking, socializing, and just hanging out. I think that is why I am enjoying being on parental leave so much, life slows down for a bit and I can just hang out with my favorite people.
On the next 12 months—
So many things! Our new baby Amalie's first year, being on parental leave over the summer months and enjoying being at home and in our garden, family holidays, camping trips with friends. And then when I return to work I am looking forward to taking part in and negotiations for an international commitment to stop the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas!
On what matters most—
It has to be the people in our lives that matter the most, no doubt.
"Winning the Nobel Peace Prize has been a huge... recognition of the work by many to bring about the... Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The ban treaty builds on the previous humanitarian disarmament treaties, like the prohibitions on antipersonnel landmines, and cluster munitions, and shows what can be achieved by a committed group of civil society organisations and states working together."
I came across Article 22 through our work on cluster bombs when we were campaigning for the treaty to ban cluster bombs. Article 22 works with organisations in Laos to make jewelry out of remnants of cluster bombs, and in doing so works with clearance organisations clearing areas that are still contaminated by cluster bombs. Over 270 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos in the 1960s and 70s, and still today large areas of land are contaminated from these weapons — the scale of the legacy left behind from that bombing campaign is immense and yet so many people don't know about it.
I met Elizabeth for the first time at an event they organized in a vodka bar in New York — we had a great time! They were selling the peacebomb bangles, and of course I bought one. It has been a favorite item of jewelry of mine for years because of the connection to my work and because I love silver jewelry. I wore it all the time and was really upset when I left it in a hotel room last year. My husband bought a new one for me for my birthday this year, a much appreciated gift.