I think I am finally adjusting to the Bangladeshi culture. My friends from the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) taught me a few new words, and I bought my first salwar kameez--the traditional three-piece outfit--which consists of a beautiful green and gold embroidered tunic, pants, and scarf.
What has helped me settle into this culture the most is the openness and hospitality of the women I have had the honor of meeting, specifically Monira Rahman. I was quite humbled today when Monira mentioned me in her "thank-you" address at a press conference this morning, even though she has taught me so much while I have done so little.
The press conference announced Ms. Rahman as the 2009 Americans for UNFPA International Honoree for the Health and Dignity of Women. After she met two brave women who survived acid attacks, Monira founded ASF so that survivors from violence could reintegrate into society, their perpetrators would not walk away without punishment, and so that—ultimately—what she terms "the patriarchal culture" would be transformed into a society that does not accept violence against women. Monira surely is a woman who makes us feminists everywhere proud!
So I left the press conference refreshed because finally we were hearing some good news: a reduction of acid attacks 16-20% each year since 2002 and a safer society for women as a result of the hard work of Monira Rahman and people like her. This left me asking, "Who are our other unsung heroes who are transforming our world without our even realizing it?"
Tomorrow I will explore the everyday life of another unsung hero: Hasina, an acid survivor with a huge smile and even bigger heart. Deni, Monira, and a crazy four-man camera crew will travel to her home village in rural Bangladesh. As long as my deet does the job, I'm sure I will be sharing more good news of my travels with you. If your feeling inspired and would like to support UNFPA please make a declaration.