Indrani Goradia, a philanthropist and advocate for women’s health and empowerment, hosted a discussion in the Georgian Suite of the Nebraska Union called “Brown Bag Lunch - Imagine: A World Without Violence to Women & Girls.” The talk was meant to give students the opportunity to discuss the issue of gender-based violence.
Goradia is the founder of Indrani’s Light Foundation, an organization dedicated to preventing gender-based violence around the world. She travels internationally to talk to groups about the issue of violence against women and girls and came to talk to students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln about what needs to be done to solve this problem.
Once everyone was settled, Goradia broke the ice by leaning on the table so everyone could see her. She asked everyone to introduce themselves and say something crazy they had done in their lives.
The environment was relaxed as people went around the circle and introduced themselves, revealing the most questionable moments in their life — like hitchhiking across the state or accidentally mistreating someone important at work — and sparking laughter across the room with every wild story told. Then Goradia went straight into what brought her to UNL.
“I am here because of the Week Without Violence,” she said. “When you hear that tagline, what does it mean to you? How does it translate personally to your life?”
When there was no response from the group, Goradia wasn’t deterred. She went on with the assumption that nobody considered bringing this tagline down to a personal level and continued asking questions on what level they considered it at all.
One student revealed she was surprised by the fact that the issue has to be addressed in such a way. It should not be something people dedicate only a week or a month to — it should be something that is always being acknowledged.
Goradia asked if anyone could imagine a world without violence. There was a somber moment of silence before one woman admitted that she couldn’t envision it, even in her wildest imagination.
Goradia, who was still leaning on the table, suddenly stood pulled out what looked like a cigarette, motioned to the group and asked if anyone had a light. The group told her nobody is allowed to smoke in this building. Goradia admitted what she was holding was actually a pencil and asked if anyone knew when and why smoking inside was outlawed.
“This rule changed because we had a treaty,” she said. “We have a tobacco treaty. And the tobacco treaty gave the right to breathe more precedence than the right to smoke. Before it was a rule, you could all be smoking, and the one person that couldn’t breathe was told ‘Just go sit in the corner, we have a right to smoke.’”
Goradia animatedly waved her hands in the air as she spoke of what it was like to live in the world before there were rules about smoking and how it compares to now. She explained that today, if she went around with a pretend cigarette, many people would come up to her and tell her it’s against the rules.
“And I cannot say I have the right, because everyone else has the right to breathe,” she said.
Goradia then talked about a website she helps run and how it gives people the opportunity to sign a treaty called “The People’s Treaty.”
“This treaty is the forerunner to the global treaty that we are creating that will act like this,” she said, holding up the cigarette. “And in 20 years, hopefully less, we will have a world before a treaty and a world after a treaty and that will mean that it will be against the law, globally, to be violent to women and girls.”
According to Goradia, the most horrendous thing a woman can go through is rape. There are countless problems with how people around the world approach this issue, she said. But Goradia held up her palm and explained that she is taking a whole-handed approach.
Goradia said the first finger looks at the laws that continue to allow a culture of rape and violence. The second finger suggests that people who come in contact with victims ought to be trained on how to interact with female victims of violence. The third finger represents starting public campaigns for prevention. The fourth stands for providing shelter and counseling services to victims. The thumb is for funding for services to protect women, as other countries feel the pressure to invest in doing so.
Goradia held up the cigarette again and looked around the room.
“We will have a before and an after,” she said. “It will happen in your lifetime. It will not be just a week without violence — it will be a world without violence. It will be the law.”
Goradia left the group with a final thought.
“You are one tiny person with one tiny voice and you will speak to one person at a time. That’s all we can do,” she said. “You might be saving that one life, that one girl. If you know something, use your voice to let other people know. It’s really worth the fight.”