We do not want women to survive but to thrive!

Fatemaa Ahsan
Posted February 28, 2019 from Bangladesh
We do not want women to not only survive but to thrive!
Isn't it about time to put violence to a total stop? We do not want women to not only survive but to thrive.

It was the time of Ramadan and I went to our village home to have iftaar and discuss social issues with local women and children. I along with my family members run ramadan tent in Chittagong where we feed hundreds of men and women breaking their fast. This particular day was exceptionally special because I went there not only as a girl who rooted from the same village but as a community worker thriving for development for these girls, women and children. I am a founder of "No Passport Voice", a charitable organisation born from the core of my heart. Through this platform I help, listen, communicate and act for those disadvantaged girls, women and children in my home town in Chittagong, Bangladesh. As I was going from girls to girls, women to women talking about how we could work together to fight various domestic and sexual violence issues this particular woman came to me with her body covered in veil. She was totally covered and I could only see her under her veil. She even covered her eyes. She just came to me and told me that she is extremely proud of me and she prays that every girl in every house is like me. I was quite taken aback by her words. I did not realise what she was getting at and took her words very positively. I told her to pray for me and asked if she has any issues at home or the community where I could help. She takes her veil off and as I see her I was totally shocked and my world just shattered. Her facial features were disoriented and her skin totally burned. She opened her veil to show me her bodily features and I went speechless because I was not expecting something like this. Let's call her "Shaheeda" for this story. I would not like to use her real name.

Shaheeda is a housewife with two girls. Her husband was a rickshaw puller who gave up his job for drug abuse. He does not contribute to anything in their family. Often he would beat Shaheeda up and abuse her sexually. To meet their hunger Shaheeda works in the local market and sell peanuts which would give her $3 a day to feed her children. She has her brother and parents at her parents' home in the nearby village but she refused to go to them or ask for help from them because in their community, it would be disgrace for a married woman to come and seek help from her own parents' or brothers. Infact, apparently, the parents would not rescue or help her and would only advice her to be with the husband and live with the dignity of a married woman. I know this because I have asked her who she has in her own family and she explained me fully without getting emotional even for a second about her standing in the community. 

Now, the question arises of how she was burned? One late evening Shaheeda was having an argument with his husband when he returned home drunk and under the influence of drugs. He asked for sweets and Shaheeda could not provide him with some, as there was hardly any water in her house to feed on. He started yelling, fighting and abusing. Shaheeda's daughters were petrified and ran away outside of their hut and was hiding behind the trees. The fight got so intense that her husband lit the hut in fire and left. Shaheeda was inside and hearing her scream her daughters rushed in and one of them also got burned. The neighbours came and rescued them and took them to the nearest emergency where both Shaheeda and her young daughter was treated. The husband went missing and until today he never returned home. 

This is just one of the many Shaheedas I came across in my country. What lead to such horrendous incident? Violence. The subject matter of the incident was very simple. The husband asking for sweets. But what happened as a consequence is alarming. Substance abuse has become very common unfortunately. The incident would not have aggravated to this level has he been in senses and not under any influence of substance. Shaheeda is living a very isolated and depressed life. Nobody in the community has the means or knowledge to nurture her trauma or even care about the mental and physical health of her and her daughters. Shaheeda is a woman like any of us who has a right of love, family, shelter and dignity. That evening we took care of her children and dedicated ourselves in helping towards their mental health and development. I have no words to describe my feelings towards such horrific incidents happening across the globe. One way of tackling such violence is through awareness and establishing counselling for women and families. After such incidents programmes tackling PTSD shall be enhanced and developed. Through our charitable organisation we try to reach out to as many women and children and help them with personality development, PTSD, depression and income generation programme for the advancement of the community. Love is a human right and in rural Bangladesh love is not practiced in families. These families need support to develop their mind set and support their daughters and sons. I wonder where is the family of Shaheeda's husband? Shaheeda does not know either. Through this story I am calling upon all the activists of violence across the globe to come forward and raise voices for those who do not have one. Together we can raise enough voices to suppress the voices of the VIOLENT. There are already NGOs and community workers working on the development sector for income generation, food etc but there is not enough buzz to help people build their personalities, mental health and sustainable income. I urge people around the globe to support such causes and help these domestic, sexual violence survivors thrive in the world. These women and children shall be protected to be able to lead a better life. At the same time men exposed to such violence also need counselling and help to be able to make the right choices. There is no alternative to peace be it at home, workplace, community, society. If we tackle violence at home one day we would be able to tackle violence in the community, society, country and globally. One Love! 

A World Free of Violence
This story was submitted in response to A World Free of Violence.

Comments 12

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Olutosin
Feb 28
Feb 28

Oh My God! I cry as I read this article. This is the story of many women, without gender equality, the world will never know peace.
I am a thriver too.
We must all unite to end violence against women and girls.

Hello, Fatemaa,

My heart breaks into pieces to read “Shaheeda’s” story, and the rest of the Shaheedas who experience this abuse. It makes me mad that women are treated this way.

In our country, we have a law, Violence Against Women and Children (VWAC). Cases like Shaheeda’s put abusive men on jail. VWAC was a result of women groups and organizations who fight for equality and respect for women and children. I hope there will be laws in your country to protect women and children from monstrous men.

Thank you for taking care of Shaheeda and her children. Thank you for raising your voice and for writing this call of support. We hear you. We fight with you!

Jill Langhus
Feb 28
Feb 28

Hi Fatemaa,

Welcome to World Pulse:-) Thanks for sharing your sad, but inspiring story. Poor Shaheeda, and her daughters. They are so fortunate to have you there for them and to teach and give them love, love and more love:-) And, all the other women and children that your helping, too.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about your work and organization. Do you have a website and/or social media page(s), so we can follow you?

Good luck with your story submission. I hope you have a good day!

Fatemaa Ahsan
Feb 28
Feb 28

Dear Olutosin
Thank you so much for the comment. We are all in this together and one day we will fight this harsh reality.

Fatemaa Ahsan
Feb 28
Feb 28

Dear Karen
Thank you so much for the comment and support. We do have laws in our country and infact I myself am a lawyer. Law often is not sought by many especially in rural Bangladesh. Social stigma is a real problem. I do have legal aid and help branch through which I give support to people in trouble. We have had many success stories and there is so much left out there to take care of. Thank you again for the support and let’s build this global sisterhood where we can pass healing in the world around us.

Fatemaa Ahsan
Feb 28
Feb 28

Dear Jlanghus
Thank you so much for your message to me. I really hope I can make a difference in the society. You can reach out to me at fwahsan@gmail.com.. My organisation is on a soft launch now and we will have an official website very soon. I will definitely share with you and like minded people. Thanks again and let me know if I can help in anyway and also take part in any social advocacy events.

Jill Langhus
Apr 20
Apr 20

Hi Fatemaa,

You're welcome. You already are, dear:-) I'm looking forward to seeing your website and hearing more about your work. You may want to consider applying to become a World Pulse Ambassador in the fall, if you qualify, at that time: https://www.worldpulse.com/changemakers/ambassadors/faq. It would be great to have representation from your country.

Please note that you will want to use the left arrow to respond to comments so that the commentator will receive an automated email notification alerting them to your reply.

Hope you're having a great day, dear!

Dawn Arteaga
Mar 02
Mar 02

Thank you for sharing this very powerful story. I am so grateful that Shaheeda and work like her have you to listen to them, comfort them and show them how valued their lives are.

Beth Lacey
Mar 07
Mar 07

What a tragic story. This violence must stop

Sis. Salifu
Mar 18
Mar 18

Its so sad when I hear these types of stories. Thanks for sharing

Urmila Chanam
Apr 16
Apr 16

Dear Fatemaa,
It is time for women around the world to join hands and help women who are falling prey to such inequality and cruelty. The parents and brothers of this woman are as much a culprit as the husband who burnt her to die. Closing doors on daughters should be booked as an offence at par with burning down a wife. This is the same case in India where a daughter is married off with such expenses and given gifts, gold, jewelry, clothes and utility items even house and car because families are washing off their hands off her once and for all. I wish you more power for assisting women in Bangladesh and sharing these stories for the global community.
Love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam,
India
urmila.chanam@gmail.com

Fatemaa Ahsan
May 14
May 14

So happy to see your comment. Let’s connect and make some differences in the society together. my email is is fwahsan@gmail.com