Abby Disney's 'Women, War & Peace' Looks Past the Obvious

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with Abby Disney about the upcoming WIE Symposium and her film 'Women, War & Peace,' which airs on PBS this fall. Disney's film is a five-part series exploring the role women have had in the peace process and the lengths they've gone to get their voices heard. It recounts the terrible toll war strategies aimed at women and children have had in the past twenty years in Bosnia, Liberia, Afghanistan and Colombia.

The series is intense, emotionally compelling and goes beyond the information we see in the daily news. The enormity of the vision is striking. For Disney and her producing partners Pam Hogan and Gini Reticker, holding that vision, the stories and the people was a coordinated effort with great rewards.

"We were all together holding everything and so when one of us was feeling kind of weak, the others would take up the slack. It's overwhelming material in terms of how sad and mad it makes you. Actually when I was younger it made me more sad. Now that I'm getting older I'm more mad ... But then there's this other side of things that's overwhelming, which is sitting in the edit room and watching these women shine and step up and being braver than I could ever be. That's the food that I need to keep going. It's a very intense experience to immerse yourself in material of this intensity, but there's so much good to take away from it."

The second day of the WIE Symposium is Inspiration Day, and Disney will give a spotlight talk on her work in film and with women. Talking with her, there's the sense that she's comfortable with who she is, passionate about the work she's doing and grateful to have the opportunity to give back.

"I'm probably one of the happier people you'll meet because I'm happy that I'm not ducking and dodging... the hard news about the world. I really believe that if you can go out there and greet the world with open arms and let it wash over you in all its bad and goodness, you'll find that it's better than you think it is. That's really what gets you through."

We're both looking forward to the great energy that comes from attending a conference of women. Disney said, "I really do believe, based on the experience I've had with women coming to our film and talking about it, that there's such a hunger in this country among women for that, for that image of themselves as not above or separate from all their sisters in the rest of the world, but really that we are so much more alike than different." The WIE Symposium gives us a wonderful space and time to find those places where we do connect.

Before we both had to run off, Disney shared a story with me that points exactly to the inspiration we can find through our work and in connecting with each other. The kind of inspiration that leaves a lasting footprint on people beyond what we're even able to imagine.

"Yesterday... I screened the film ['Pray the Devil Back to Hell,' one part of the series] on Capitol Hill for professional staffers and so forth. I had the most amazing story told to me by a man from Senegal, how he'd been using the film for the last two years. Taking it to villages across Senegal to show to women, to talk to them about how they could change the violence in their culture. I was kind of blown away. And the only reason he knew about it was because he happened to see it on television in Senegal. He made me cry. He said there are women organizing marches across the rural Southern part of Senegal because of your film -- that never would have happened otherwise. It's everything that I never had the gall to hope for. Never allowed myself to imagine was possible."

I hope you can join us on September 18th & 19th for the WIE Symposium. You can hear more about Abby Disney's experiences and participate in discussions with an incredible lineup of women and men as they share their stories of inspiration, effort and success in politics, business, the arts, philanthropy, education and more.

"Women, War & Peace" airs as a five-part series on PBS Tuesday nights from October 11th through November 8th. To see a trailer of the film, find related stories and learn more about the remarkable women and men in each film, click here for the website.


Tickets and more information about the WIE Symposium can be found at