Tag Archives: Violence against women

How One Philanthropist is Changing Lives for India’s Women and Girls – Part II

By Indrani Goradia, founder of Wajood, a partnership between Indrani’s Light Foundation and PSI

Yesterday we published How One Philanthropist is Changing Lives for India’s Women and Girls. Today we’re publishing part two of the piece. In this continuation, Indrani Goradia tells the stories of three women she met during her most recent trip to India to launch Wajood, a partnership between her organization, Indrani’s Light Foundation, and PSI to address violence against women. Read more about Wajood in yesterday’s piece.

Laxmi

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Victim turned advocate Laxmi speaks at the launch of Wajood – a project developed in partnership with philanthropist and advocate Indrani Goradia and PSI India to address violence against women in Delhi, India. Laxmi’s efforts led to the Indian Supreme Court regulating the sale of acid and making prosecutions of acid attacks easier to pursue.

Laxmi strode confidently into the hotel ballroom where we were holding the launch of Wajood – a project developed in partnership between Indrani’s Light Foundation and PSI India to stem gender based violence in Delhi.

She’s slight, dressed in skinny jeans and unmistakable in her confidence, her beauty and for the scars covering her face and arms.

We had not exchanged a single word but I could feel the life and purpose flowing from her, and I loved her immediately.

A little later, we sat down to talk and with self-assurance and boldness, she shared her story. When she was only 15 years old, she refused the marriage proposal of a man twice her age in her New Delhi neighborhood. As revenge, the man enlisted his friend to help him punish her. At a crowded upscale market in India’s capital, the two men approached her and threw a glass of acid in her face.

Now at 23, after multiple surgeries, she is speaking out on the issue of violence against women and mentoring women who’ve experienced similar abuse. She is giving voice to victims and hope to women, and she is pushing for change.

There is something painfully beautiful about the human spirit that allows Laxmi to take such an unimaginable tragedy and turn it into fire and light and love.

Too many young girls and women share Laxmi’s experience. She’s determined to stop the cycle. I am, too. It’s why I am here in Delhi launching Wajood with PSI India. The timing is critical and the women I met are ready for change in one of the most dangerous places in the world for girls and women.

I leave our conversation restless, determined and impatient. Laxmi inspires my work and she challenges me to do more.

What one thing can we do today to help create change? It could be a simple as sharing Laxmi’s story.

Geeta

Today I spent time with prostituted women at Shakti Vahini, India’s leading organization to combat human trafficking and slavery.

It broke me. I felt sorrow, anger, rage, and incredible grief.

But what most overwhelmed me was the incredible grace of the women I met. They invited me into their space and they shared their very intimate personal stories.

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A girl in the New Delhi community of Bindapur, a resettlement colony comprised of migrant workers. Girls and women often do not have the support networks they need to recognize the signs of gender based violence. Indrani’s partnership with PSI India will establish a coalition of organizations to better serve those in communities like Bindapur.

Geeta’s mother died when she was seven, leaving behind six children – all girls. Two of her sisters were married off at the age of 7. As her father could not support her, she was sent away to be a domestic servant.

Geeta was only 15 years old when she was married to escape servitude, and then promptly had two children by age 19. Her husband regularly beat her and demanded that she make more money selling goods at the local market. He soon left her alone, young and with no way to support her two children. That’s when a “trusted” male friend offered her a better life and work in the city. Hopeful for a way to provide for her children, she agreed and was soon sold into the Delhi brothel that has become her life, her home, her prison.

One after another, each woman shared her story. I am humbled and I fight to hold back tears.

I’m thankful for Shaki Vahini and their work to strengthen law enforcement agencies and campaign against violence against women, child marriage, sexual harassment, and forced marriages. With them we are a step closer to ending gender-based violence in my lifetime.

Join me. Share Geeta’s story. Help create the awareness we need to change. When our voices become too loud, too powerful, they will have no choice but to be heard.

Mitu

I think most people would expect an educated woman in the country’s capital city to somehow be immune, protected, to have the same basic rights of a modern woman.

A woman waits to see a doctor in the New Delhi community of Bindapur, a resettlement colony comprised of migrant workers. Project Wajood will build upon existing health clinics to launch much needed gender based health services that reach women and their families at the community level.
A woman waits to see a doctor in the New Delhi community of Bindapur, a resettlement colony comprised of migrant workers. Project Wajood will build upon existing health clinics to launch much needed gender based health services that reach women and their families at the community level.

In 2004, Mitu, a pediatrician, married an orthopedic surgeon. Shortly after her arranged marriage, her in-laws demanded a greater dowry from her parents – a new car, more jewelry and other possessions. Her parents could not give more, and as a result, Mitu suffered abuse at the hands of her mother-in-law – a practice all too common in India.

After becoming pregnant her in-laws demanded a sex determination test. Mitu refused.

She was carrying twins, and she knew that they would force her to have an abortion if she was pregnant with girls. Persistent, her in-laws tricked her into eating a cake that she was allergic to and she ended up in the hospital where they arranged a full fetal scan, revealing the sex of the babies to her in-laws. All without her consent.

Mitu fought back.

It so happens that gender based abortion is illegal in India under the PNDT Act of 1994. She is the first woman in India to file a complaint under the law against her husband and the doctors and hospital that performed the illegal sex-determination test. To date, no charges have been pressed.

One of the great challenges in addressing gender-based violence is getting laws passed that protect people from abuse. Another great challenge is ensuring charges are filed and people are held accountable for their actions.

The deeply engrained preference for boys in India means that most people feel that Mitu is wrong and that she should have respected her in-laws’ preference for a boy.

Mitu’s path has not been easy. She experiences stigma, has been ostracized and is financially burdened. But she does not let these things stop her from doing what she knows is right.

Change takes champions, advocates and heroes. Mitu and Laxmi and Geeta are my heroes, I join them to forge a world where girls will choose who they marry, when they marry, and celebrate the birth of their daughters.

As I prepare for the journey home, I have a lot to consider. I am exhilarated, exhausted and inspired. I will take these stories with me and I will do my best to amplify them – to honor them.

I’ll write one more post. Until then, keep these women in your thoughts.

We are all abused when one of us is abused.

I have been back from Delhi for about a week now.

I went to launch a partnership between Indrani’s Light Foundation and PSI India and Wajood – a project to address gender based violence in Dehli and surrounding areas.

It’s been my dream to take my experience and the experiences of the women I have met through Indrani’s Light Foundation and put them to use to help women around the world. This week, that dream was realized.

I expected to hear difficult stories, I expected to see great differences in culture and the similarities that make us all human. What I did not expect, what has stayed with me, is the overwhelming sense of hope – from Laxmi and Mitu and Geeta.

When I close my eyes I see their faces, I hear their voices and I feel their pain and their purpose.

These women are regular women – obedient girls and hopeful wives whose lives were upended by harmful cultural practices that have become far too common. Geeta was forced into prostitution and 20 years later she still suffers, Laxmi was barely 15 when a 32-year-old man doused her with acid because she refused his hand in marriage and Mitu is a pediatrician whose daughter was thrown down the stairs by a spiteful mother-in-law because she did not want two girls in the family.

Thankfully, what is also becoming common is that women like Geeta, Laxmi and Mitu are giving voice to an issue that holds back families, communities and countries. These women are easy to identify as activists, as they are speaking up to create change for the country they so dearly love. But for every Laxmi there are hundreds of women who will never get the chance to speak openly or in public for fear of reprisal or even death. Nevertheless, these unsung heroes live next door to us in Delhi, Detroit and Dublin. They take the beatings and the rapes and daily verbal abuse as they try to do their best for their children. They continue to care for the parents of their husbands, often their abusers, and they continue to try to be the best wives and mothers they know how to be.

These women, these invisible heroes, are the backbone of India. They are the ones we must reach with prevention efforts and support services for they will change India into a more compassionate culture towards girls and women. We must also reach boys and teach them new ways, we must talk with men and family members to break harmful cultural practices.  The work is complex and daunting and something we must do. Laws must change, people must be held accountable for crimes, solutions must be developed as locally as possible so they are relevant, and we must push for more funding and greater inclusion of gender based violence programming into existing health programs.

Wajood, the movement that we have started to help address issues of Gender Violence in Delhi begins today. We join a growing chorus of organizations, women and men who will not stop until we achieve a world free from violence based on gender.

Today, I feel nothing but hope.

How One Philanthropist is Changing Lives for India’s Women and Girls

By Marshall Stowell, Editor-in-Chief, Impact magazine

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Philanthropist and advocate Indrani Goradia shares her personal story with students at a New Dehli school and talks about why she is partnering with PSI India to address violence against women.

It’s been just over a week since philanthropist and advocate Indrani Goradia landed in India. She’s been many times before, her husband’s family is Indian and she is from Trinidad and Tobago, of Indian descent.

But this is a different trip and fifty-plus years in the making.

Not long ago, gender-based violence was viewed as a private, domestic affair. Even in the United States, legal protections against violence toward women were not enacted until 20 years ago in 1994.

Today, survivors and their allies that include both women and men spearhead advocacy initiatives to help the world understand that gender-based violence is a systemic, public health and human rights issue. Not only does it jeopardize the lives of women and children but it also has a profound effect on entire families, communities and impedes a country’s progress.

In India, gender-based violence is often seen in the form of dowry violence, sex selective abortions, intimate partner violence and sexual harassment, or ‘eve teasing’. Thirty-five percent of women in India experience physical or sexual violence and only one-in-four seek help. Of those that suffer sexual violence alone, only 8% percent seek help. Of that small percentage of survivors that ask for help, they primarily look to their families, their spouse’s family or neighbors for support—avoiding formal health services available in the community.

Women gather to discuss the role of women and young girls in India. Engaging different generations of women is a critical component of the Inrani’s Light Foundation/PSI India Wajood Program to combat gender based violence.
Women gather to discuss the role of women and young girls in India. Engaging different generations of women is a critical component of the Inrani’s Light Foundation/PSI India Wajood Program to combat gender based violence.

Indrani knows all too well the impact gender-based violence can have. She lived it for the greater part of her childhood and the effects shaped her permanently.

After a diagnosis of depression at the age of 50, she decided she had to deal with what happened. Slowly, she turned her pain into determination and began to live her dreams. With no prior training, she decided to compete in an Olympic-distance triathlon. Though nowhere near the head of the pack, she crossed the finish line. And there, her journey as a philanthropist, advocate and mentor began.

Shortly after, she created Indrani’s Light Foundation to address gender-based violence in her community of Houston, Texas. She knew one day she wanted her work to help women across the globe.

Last year, Indrani’s Light Foundation formed a partnership with PSI to do just that. Beginning in 2014, Indrani’s Light Foundation and PSI will pilot projects in India and Trinidad and Tobago.

She joins a growing network of committed women philanthropists tackling the issues facing girls and women. “If we are to eliminate extreme poverty in our lifetime, we must lift girls and women. Eradicating violence based on gender is critical to unlocking girls and women’s potential,” said Goradia.

Philanthropist and advocate Indrani Goradia at the launch of Wajood– a partnership between Indrani’s Light Foundation and PSI India to address violence against women in New Delhi, India. In Hindi, Wajood translates to – Identity.
Philanthropist and advocate Indrani Goradia at the launch of Wajood– a partnership between Indrani’s Light Foundation and PSI India to address violence against women in New Delhi, India. In Hindi, Wajood translates to – Identity.

A primary focus of the pilot project in India, called Wajood, includes spreading messages about prevention and support services available for victims of gender based violence. The campaign will use a combination of public messaging, person-to-person channels and new technologies, such as connecting survivors and their supporters through tablet computers that can measure project process and allow for extra mobility.

The project will also engage boys, men and other community members with creative campaigns on how to prevent gender-based violence. Survivors will have the information and opportunities they need to seek support and share their own stories.

Tomorrow, we will share the stories of three women, Laxmi, Geeta, and Mitu, Indrani met during her time in Delhi. You can follow Indrani at @Indranis_light.

Photos courtesy of Indrani Goradia and PSI

Gender-Based Violence is Grossly Under-reported According to New Report

A new report, funded in part by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, found that gender-based violence in the developing world is being under-reported by 11 – to 128 fold. The data that was used to make these findings were from health systems and police reports.

The paper, “Tip of the Iceberg: Reporting and Gender-Based Violence in Developing Countries,” analyzed data from Demographic and Health Surveys from 24 countries revealed 93,656 women as survivors of GBV. The researchers discovered that only 7 percent of women globally who are survivors of physical or sexual violence report GBV to formal sources, including legal, medical, or social support services. Additionally, disclosure of GBV to family, friends, or neighbors of the victims was low (37 percent). In 20 of the 24 countries studied, the majority of women told no one at all.

“Our results confirm that the vast majority of women who have experienced GBV remain uncounted,” said Dr. Palermo. “The research further indicates that not only are most survivors not receiving formal services, but they are not receiving informal support from friends and family members.”

Based on the reported data Dr. Palermo believes dedicated centers should be created where women can be treated physically and mentally for gender-based violence. These independent centers will likely paint a clearer picture about global gender-based violence statistcs instead of women being afraid to come forward and keeping the data skewed.

Source

Becoming a Part of 2014’s One Billion Rising

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One in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Let’s take that in for a moment. It’s such a silent epidemic. I know. I have seen women’s eyes in the countries I visit and even here at home. They can’t hide it. According to OneBillionRising.org, that number comes to one billion women worldwide. That number is wholly unacceptable and needs to be recognized, acknowledged and changed!

In 2014, on February 14 women and men (and MEN) around the world will stand up against violence against women. Although the official 1 Billion Rising for Justice celebration is a few months away still, we fully know how fast two months rolls around so we want to get the information out there to you now so you can plan accordingly.

You can sign up to be a part of 1 Billion Rising at www.onebillionrising.org. We hope you check it out. We will be a part of the festivities in February and we will be gearing up for it until then.

No woman deserves to be abused in any way. Stand up and take action!

16 Days Against Gender-Based Violence #16Days

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Through December 10 USAID is spearheading a global call to action over the course of 16 days to speak out against gender-based violence. You may not know that 1 in 3 women and girls will be abused, beaten or coerced into sex? Or, that abuse of women reaches as high as 70 percent in some countries. Or, that 42 percent of women who have been abused have sustained injuries because of the abuse. These stats shared by USAID and the World Health Organization are real and pertinent and need to be changed.

During these next two weeks you can join the global chorus of voices against gender-based violence by following the #16Days hashtag. You can also visit the USAID site dedicated to this effort at www.usaid.gov/16-days where you will find a plethora of information, reports, blog posts, and a calendar of events all pertaining to activism against gender-based violence.

Also be sure to follow @USAID on Twitter to read gender-based violence tweets and share them with your followers. Here are some #16Days tweets that are particularly interesting.