While we still have a long, long way to go, Violence Against Women has thankfully now become a worldwide topic of discussion and on this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we would like to share the poignant stories from two very brave women living in The Sreepur Village, Bangladesh.
Almost every woman in Bangladesh will have experienced sexual harassment at some point, if not at many points throughout her life. Terrified of speaking out, the trauma of such acts of violence and abuse can stay with these victims throughout their whole life and even for those who do reach out, they are often not heard or worse still heard by the wrong people.
When Ripa Chowdhury was 11 years old, her cousin took advantage of her. “I didn't know what he was doing, but I do remember being very scared, I would freeze. When I told my sister, she didn't believe me, so I didn't bother telling my mother,” she told us. “The last time I had to face my cousin alone, I threw a stone at his face, ran away and locked myself in my room,” she stressed. Years later, Ripa did tell her mother who broke down the minute she heard. Ripa told us “I realised then that if I had told her earlier, she could have saved me.”
Before coming to The Sreepur Village, Nila Rahman was facing harassment that involved threats to her and her family. She had ended a relationship with an abusive man, which he didn't take very well and then began mentally abusing her. “The man used to call her and use slang, demeaning words. When she blocked his number, he began calling her from different phones. Then, he started calling her siblings,” says Rakib Hasan, a close friend of the victim. The perpetrator reportedly gave her brothers compromising photographs and was constantly harassing her family. “After the brothers tried to negotiate with him, the man demanded that the girl faced him and his friends, alone, which we all know could be dangerous to her sanity, security and ultimately her life,” he said. “We didn’t know what he would do next!” Because of societal pressure and other obstacles, the family hasn't been able to take stronger measures against the man.
On a positive note, and for the ongoing fight for elimination of Violence Against Women, The Sreepur Village, Bangladesh, continues to provide vulnerable women and their children, victims of violence and abuse, with a safe place they can call home. In The Sreepur Village, more than 200 women and 450 children feel secure and with 24/hour care, nutrition, education and training, these women are given hope for a brighter future.
Ignorance and wrong beliefs surrounding disability, compounded with a negative and derogatory attitude of the community (including family members) have contributed to the marginal development in the disability sector in Bangladesh.
“We can change the world by our kindness. Kindness Begins with me.” Anik