Combating gender-based violence

Monira Rahman

Having worked with survivors of acid and petrol attacks in Bangladesh for the past 14 years, I know that violence is a major obstacle for women’s ability to access their rights. Until women have real equality, they will continue not only to suffer the most from poverty, but also be subjected to violence.

Gender-based violence not only distresses women but also affects the whole family, community and society. It needs to be tackled from all corners. It would not have been possible to reduce the number of acid attacks by 70 percent in Bangladesh and support thousands of acid survivors in rebuilding their lives without support from government, the media, donors, and international development organisations.

From the very beginning of its formation, the Acid Survivors Foundation in Bangladesh has been supported by the UK-based charity Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), as well as DFID, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), and Interburns (an international network for research, education, and training on burns).

My Commonwealth Professional Fellowship enabled me to spend three months in the UK at ASTI, closely observing the interventions of the UK government and charities to protect the rights of victims of gender-based violence and people with disfigurements, and campaign towards changing social attitudes towards those issues in the UK.

From my placement at Changing Faces, I learnt about important aspects of their ‘Changing lives and changing minds’ campaign. The charity provides individual needs-based psychosocial support to people with disfiguring conditions to empower them to challenge personal and social barriers, as well as working with healthcare professionals, teachers and community workers to change negative attitudes towards disfigurement. Changing Faces works closely with the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) at the University of West England to develop evidence-based psychosocial support services.

My placement at Refuge, the domestic abuse charity, was an eye-opening experience for me. I had the opportunity to shadow the National Domestic Violence Helpline services and to visit Refuge-run shelters. It was surprising for me to learn that Refuge’s huge campaign programme to prevent domestic violence is fully funded by the private sector. I will certainly take this spirit back to the commercial advertising companies working in Bangladesh.

I also visited burns units in hospitals in Bristol and Swansea, where I learnt two important approaches for treating burn victims. First, the Outlook project, whereby burn survivors can access psychological support services even after they are discharged from hospital, helping them to cope with their changed situation. The second was the Outreach project, where a team of nurses and occupational therapists work with community workers, patients and their family members to develop a better understanding of burn scar management.

Through my Professional Fellowship, I learnt that we need better, stronger, and more effective international networking with sister organisations to share resources and knowledge.

About the author:

Monira Rahman is a 2012 Commonwealth Professional Fellow from Bangladesh


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