News My life wasn’t worth anything

“I’m being abused by my mother, my sister and her husband. They beat me, verbally abuse me and don’t give me anything to eat. I do all the housework and take care of my cousins, but actually I want to study. My family controls my life, I have no say at all.” – Sumi

Sumi’s story is not unique, it is one of many. Violence against women is a serious social, cultural and economic problem in Bangladesh. Nearly two out of three women have experienced or are experiencing gender-based violence. Violence against women and girls is so ‘normal’ that women often do not feel that violence against them is taken seriously or worth reporting. They undergo it silently. Research shows that women with disabilities are more likely to experience domestic violence and sexual assault than women without disabilities (WHO). In addition, women with disabilities are generally also faced with emotional and verbal abuse.

Leadership training

In order to help girls with disabilities gain more self-respect and with it respect from their family and community, we started the leadership training program, in which they learn about women’s rights and equal rights for people with disabilities. We teach them to make their voices heard, by taking a microphone and talking about human rights. It sounds simple, but this is a giant leap for someone who has always heard she wasn’t worth anything. We teach them to dream about a future and to break it down into small goals and record them in their personal life plan. We encourage them to keep a diary and write down their life story. This creates unprecedented emotions. Because this is not a single incident, but structural violence that the girls carry with them throughout their lives.

The girls find it healing to put down these experiences on paper, share them and cry with each other in a safe environment. They learn from each other’s experiences, become more daring together and grow stronger during the process. Now the girls who attended the training no longer accept being treated as the ‘disabled person’ and …. they no longer allow themselves to be abused. Some girls were brave enough to record their story in a video and speak out about the injustice done to them.

Not all parents can handle these big changes in their daughter. To prevent escalations, we would like to include parents more in the process in future training programs.

Read also the story of Megla

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