Woman blinded by acid attack headlines Abbotsford’s Womens Day celebrations

University of British Columbia student Rumana Monzur, who was beaten and blinded by her husband during a 2011 attack in Bangladesh, poses for a photograph at UBC Summer 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck


A Bangladeshi woman who overcame a brutal attack by her husband that left her blind will add her “powerful voice” to Abottsford’s International Women’s Day celebrations on Saturday.

Rumana Monzur made international headlines in the summer of 2011 when her husband attacked her in Dhaka, Bangladesh, because he was enraged by her plan to further her education at UBC.

His attack, which took place as Monzur’s daughter watched, has now left Monzur partially blind.

Still, she returned to Canada and now lives on the UBC campus with her daughter and parents, where she uses braille and audio recordings to study law.

Monzur has become a strong advocate for women’s rights and she’ll be the keynote speaker for Abbotsford’s One Billion Rising event organized by the University of the Fraser Valley and Surrey-based GirlKind Foundation (a group that fights gendercide and raises awareness for women’s rights).

“Such events [One Billion Rising]serve as reminders that underneath our different cultures, backgrounds, and overall life experiences, there is a narrative that women all over the world share,” Sharanjit Sandhra, coordinator of UFV’s Centre for Indo Canadian Studies, said in a release. “This event is about empowerment and encouraging young girls and women to achieve to their fullest potential. That is what a woman like Rumana reminds us all to do.”

“To have experienced such violence and aggression and come out not with bitterness, but with a renewed sense of spirit and drive to succeed is something that would motivate anyone.”

According to Sandhra, Monzur exemplifies the challenges that led to V-Day and One Billion Rising — which began as a call to action based on the fact that 1 in 3 women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime — because Monzur overcame the adversity she faced and remained committed to her right to education.

Saturday’s International Women’s Day event kicks off at 11 a.m., with guest speakers, the One Billion Rising dance and an open-mic for women to share stories at Thunderbird Civic Plaza, followed by a film screening and then the keynote address by Monzur at 1 p.m. at The Reach Gallery Museum.

Deesh Sekhon is behind an organization called GirlKind, which is against gendercide and helps girls left abandoned in India. Arlen Redekop / PNG

“It’s a day to celebrate the inspirational and brave work women around the world are doing to secure women’s and girls’ rights and create better and equitable societies,” founder of GirlKind Foundation Deesh Sekhon said. “It is also a day to reflect on the work that remains and remember the many women whose voices go unheard and who continue to be excluded from realizing their full potential.”

The free event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration is recommended for the film screening.


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