This morning I still had mixed feelings and nerves about my trip to ASF. I couldn't fall back asleep after the 5 o'clock morning prayer from the loudspeakers outside permeated through my hotel window. I had to force down the last bite of mango from my breakfast plate even though I have fallen in love with mangos since my arrival! After all, I knew that the scars and burns I saw might very well make me a bit sick... Monira Rahman, founder of ASF, recognized the discomfort in my expression this morning and asked, "Will you be okay?"
But the ASF tour passed. I met the women and darling toddler Durjoy who survived acid attacks, and I was okay. In fact, I was more than okay! They were not victims; they were not their scars; they were brave women with dreams much like my own. And they soon became my sisters in song and dance.
I danced with 8 other women. And I could feel how the activity opened their hearts in the art therapy room. They overcame their physical and physiological pain in their circle of dance. And they welcomed me: a stranger who looked nothing like them, didn't speak their language, and couldn't do much to repair the damage already done. But then I realized that they did not need this from me. They had so much courage and hope already. In fact, I bet a few could actually give American women a lesson in self-confidence!
But the survivors appreciated my support; that I, an American was there; that so many women have declared themselves Americans for UNFPA and have supported them through their declaration; that they are not alone in their struggle to end violence against women.
Tomorrow, a press conference will announce Monira Rahman as the recipient of the 2009 Americans for UNFPA International Honoree for the Health and Dignity of Women. Human rights defender, a challenger of the status quo, and my personal instructor in dance, Monira taught me as we moved that together, we can all lead.