Like other girls Rawshan Ara, 18, of Hariharpur village of Dinajpur district also dreamt of having a happy married life, having children and be a proud mother. Her parents married her off when she was 12 and unfortunately, within a year all of her dreams were shattered!
’My family failed to provide the dowry demanded by my husband,’ Rawsan said adding that her husband used to threat her always. ‘He said that I cannot carry on with their family without fulfilling the dowry demand.’
As time passed by, the issue became serious between the spouses and affected their conjugal life. In the beginning, it was all about mental agony but gradually her husband started torturing her physically and it got worse day by day.
At one stage, her husband threw acid on her at the dark of night. Rawshan, then 13, was asleep and could not realise for few months that it was her husband who was the mastermind of the assault.
After the attack, she received treatment in different hospitals. First, she was admitted in the local Birampur Hospital and was transferred to Jaipurhat District Hospital later on for better treatment. She needed to be transferred again, with the support of BRAC, to Acid Survivors Foundation Hospital (ASFH) in Dhaka as the district hospital lacks in treatment facilities on acid burn.
After six months of treatment in ASFH, Rawshan returned to her in laws’ place in Hariharpur as she was unaware about her husband’s nefarious act till then. Meanwhile, her husband filed a false case in the local police station but as soon Rawshan came to know the truth she returned to her parents’ place. Later on she lodged a case against her husband and two other people involved in the crime. Unfortunately, the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.
During the entire period Rawshan was psychologically traumatized while the community people ostracised her. She was stigmatized as the people continually held her responsible for what has happened.
But she turned around and joined back school at grade XII once she recovered. ‘I believe anyone can succeed in anything if s/he has the courage’, Rawshan Ara expressed as she has come over the trauma of the fierce acid attack.
In between, she learned about ‘Setu Bondhon Gori’ (SBJ) – a network of acid survivors supported by ActionAid Bangladesh – in her locality. She got involved with the network and attended a number of training and workshop organized by the network.
SBG was established nationally in 2006 and followed by a convention in 2007; the network is now operates its activities in four districts - Satkhira, Dinajpur, Sirajgonj and Pabna. The network is designed to address three key factors - the psychological recovery, socio-economic capacity building and future aspirations of the survivors.
Rawshan Ara is now the convener of SBG network in Dinajpur. Besides, she is continuing her higher secondary school studies. As a SBG member, Rawshan Ara has created a wide link among different service providers of the district to prevent the violence and help other acid survivors.