Jimmie Briggs is someone who has devoted the better part of his life to giving a voice to those who are disenfranchised and often go unheard or misrepresented. As a journalist and activist, he has focused his work on examining child warfare and the circumstances that lead to children being forcefully or desperately recruited into conflict, slavery and trauma. His book, Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go To War, is a six-year investigation into the lives of child soldiers in countries like Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Uganda and Columbia. His work on these social issues led to his appointment as a Goodwill Ambassador and Special Envoy for Children and Armed Conflict by the U.N., a further commitment to his mission of the documentation and education of people on the affects of war. His most recent project,The Man Up Campaign, is a global-grassroots campaign that works with young people to empower and inspire them into taking action to stop sexual and physical violence against women. His most recent book, The Wars Women Fight: Dispatches From A Father To His Daughter, is a portrait of violence perpetrated against women in conflict regions, as well as an ongoing letter to his young daughter on the reasons why continues doing the work he does. It has been a privilege and a truly humbling experience to be able to speak with him on his work and learn more about the activism that he is dedicated to.
PM: You are the executive director and co-founder of Man Up, a global campaign that stands against domestic violence. Can you tell us a bit about the program, your role in it and why you started Man Up?
JB: Man Up was something I envisioned three years ago while still working as a journalist. At the time, I was doing research for a book on sexual violence in conflict and rape as a weapon of war. Ultimately deciding to step back, I began to conceive of the initiative which became Man Up. Formally launched last year in South Africa, during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the campaign is now actively working with youth between the ages of 18-30 years old in 25 countries around the world, mainly sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas.
PM: As a journalist, you have predominantly covered the issue of child warfare and how children are enlisted to fight in violent conflict due to poverty or force and are often drugged, enslaved and sexually assaulted. How did you get involved with this social issue – were you always interested in it?
JB: My first job in journalism was sorting mail in the mailroom of the Washington Post. I eventually began writing freelance pieces for the Style section, which led to a reporting internship in New York with the Village Voice.