> A Peace of My Mind
Exploring the Meaning of Peace One Story at a Time
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Reception following in The Dulany Inn of Davies Center
“We need to appreciate the richness of our diverse heritage and begin to see the value of global citizenship, so that peace and social and political justice may prevail in the world. Perhaps it will inspire us to become peacemakers,” writes Ela Gandhi in her forward to A Peace of My Mind (2011), a book by UW-Eau Claire graduate John Noltner. Her Forum Special address is the culmination of a campus event that begins with an exhibit of Noltner’s photographs and interviews that runs April 1–May 12 in W.R. Davies Student Center.
Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, is a renowned peace activist and the recipient of numerous awards for her work in promoting nonviolent political change. She was born in Durban, South Africa, in 1940, the youngest daughter of Manilal and Sushila Gandhi. In 1947, while visiting her parents’ homeland she witnessed the liberation of India, and as Mahatma Gandhi’s nearest relative she raised the Indian flag in the village where her maternal grandmother lived. She spent about three months with her grandfather, living in his ashram under his supervision. At the age of 12 she joined the liberation movement in South Africa, in Defiance Campaign marches that marked the beginning of a dedicated and courageous life in politics.
Gandhi received her bachelor of arts degree at the University of Natal, and later received a B.A. in social science with honors from the University of South Africa. Following graduation, she worked with the poor as a social worker in the Black townships and Indian communities.
In 1971, Gandhi helped revive the Natal Indian Congress, an organization her grandfather helped found in 1894 to fight discrimination against Indians in South Africa. In 1975 Gandhi was banned from political activism by the South African government and was subjected to nine years of house arrest. Undeterred, she continued her community and grassroots activism underground. She was actively involved in the United Democratic Front — a non-racial coalition of about 400 civic, church, student and worker organizations — that was one of the most important anti-apartheid organizations of the 1980s. One of her sons was killed during the struggle against apartheid.
Gandhi was among the UDF members who met with Nelson Mandela prior to his release from prison in 1990. She served on the Transitional Executive Council before the 1994 elections. From 1994 to 2004 Gandhi served as a member of the Parliament of South Africa, where she aligned with the African National Congress party representing the Phoenix area of the city of Inanda in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
After serving in parliament, Gandhi developed a 24-hour program against domestic violence and founded the Gandhi Development Trust. She is former chancellor of the Durban University of Technology.
She received the Community of Christ International Peace Award in 2002 for her nonviolent resistance to apartheid in South Africa, her passion for working to overcome poverty and assist the vulnerable, and her work to build understanding between different world religions. In 2007 she was conferred the Padma Bhushan, one of India’s highest civilian awards, for distinguished service of high order.
In April 2012 Gandhi presented a plenary session on peace education at Blurring Boundaries, an international educational development conference hosted by Georgia State University and co-sponsored by the United Nations Academic Impact and the Committee for Teaching about the United Nations. Gandhi discussed the benefits of teaching about notable peacemakers rather than focusing on wars and violence in history classes. Gandhi visited Australia for the first time in February 2013, to speak and to set up an Australian branch of the South Africa-based International Centre of Nonviolence, of which she is vice chairperson. She is also currently an honorary president of the World Council on Religions for Peace.
A Forum Special
Cosponsored by Academic Affairs, Affirmative Action, Alumni Association, University Centers, University Foundation and the Visiting Minority Scholar/Artist Program
$8 General Public
$6 UW System Faculty/Staff • Age 62 & Over
$4 UW System Student • Age 17 & Under
Student tickets are $2 until the day of the event
All seats are general admission