By Targiv Roham (YES 2015-2016, Bangladesh, hosted by Ayusa in the Colony, TX)
Gender discrimination is pervasive in Bangladesh, resulting in many obstacles faced by the women and girls around the country. One of the main issues is a prevalence of sexual assaults on women throughout the country. A report from Ain o Shalish Kendra (ASK), a national NGO, states that 818 women were sexually assaulted across the country in 2017 alone. What is even worse, is the inclination of our society towards victim-blaming. Sexual assaults are considered taboo and are rarely discussed. This leads to women being subdued by society after becoming a victim of sexual assaults, resulting in an alarming rate of unreported sexual assault crimes. This has become a huge problem in the country. However, with the advent of social media, things have started to change. A number of perpetrators of sexual assault cases have been identified through Facebook and have been brought to justice. On the contrary, cyber harassment has also become an great issue. All of this led to a dire need for the youth who are the greatest users of social media to learn about the inner nuances of gender discrimination and sexual assaults and how to deal with them online and offline.
To tackle that, Voice for Change, a YES alumni initiated platform organized Not Her Fault, an interactive workshop and panel discussion on patriarchal stigma, victim blaming, rape culture, and gender disparity in Bangladesh coordinated by Targiv Sanan Roham, the founder of Voice for Change. The event was held at Thames Square, Dhanmondi on March 17, 2018. The program was split into two categories: first, a workshop on the various socio-cultural agencies that promote rape culture and second, a panel discussion on the real-world implications of such agencies.
The workshop was conducted by some of the best young speakers in Bangladesh. Sakib Bin Rashid inaugurated the event with a workshop on patriarchy, followed by a workshop on toxic masculinity. Later workshop topics covered rape culture, gender oppression, and victim-blaming presented by Raima Marium Haque, Myat Moe Khaing and Noshin Sayiara respectively. The workshops focused largely on how women are shamed for their characters, attires and sexual history in different ways and how they all aim to ignore the real problem by allowing the perpetrators to get away with their crimes. This is particularly important in the context of Bangladesh, where a woman’s “moral character” can be used as a valid argument in favor of the accused in a legal case of rape.
The workshops were followed by a panel discussion on the real-world implications of the topics discussed in the workshop. The panelists included Muktasree Chakma Sathi, a prominent minority rights activist and a core member of Sangat; Afreen Huda, Vice President, Engagement and Culture at Robi Axiata Ltd; Farhan Uddin Ahmed, Lecturer at BRAC University’s School of Law; and Tanvir Ahmed, Senior Psychosocial expert at Maya Apa. The discussions revolved around what the youth, as citizens, can do, within their own powers, to fight back against gender discrimination, and how effective they can make it.
Not Her Fault was successfully executed with the help of the winners of the Voice for Change competition who received a grant to implement this project. The event managed to reach out to 300 participants who signed up, as well as over 75,000 people through Facebook. The entire program was broadcasted live which reached over 55,000 people and was watched over 19,000 times. Not Her Fault successfully concluded on a hopeful note that discussions such as these will help raise awareness of such issues among the citizens, and this will, in turn, lead to changes for the better in the future. Voice for Change also plans to organize the project in the future throughout different districts of Bangladesh in hopes of reaching a wider range of audience.