Victims lives are shattered, most hide in the shadows -- their faces covered, their spirits broken
Victims lives are shattered, most hide in the shadows -- their faces covered, their spirits broken

It is an incredibly cruel act of violence - acid thrown into the face of a woman, sometimes a child. Its perpetrators often are driven by revenge, jealousy and hate; their intent, to disfigure rather than kill. Acid violence is common in several countries in Africa and Asia, including Bangladesh, where human rights advocate Monira Rahman is Making a Difference by campaigning to end the practice through her Acid Survivors Foundation.

These women live with horrific scars because someone threw acid at them because of a rejected marriage proposal, a disputed land deal or some other issue. With their lives shattered, most hide in the shadows - their faces covered, their spirits broken. But now they have an advocate in Monira Rahman.

For 17 years, Rahman's efforts have centered on ending discrimination, abuse and violence against women in Bangladesh through her Acid Survivors Foundation. She says that victims receive treatment at the foundation's 20-bed hospital and trauma center in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

"I was horrified and shocked, and couldn't understand how a human being could do this to another human being," Rahman says, "But I was also amazed to see the courage and strength of acid survivors and then I decided to walk with them."

Rahman says she marvels at the strength and optimism of the women she helps, and questions the mindset of men, and sometimes women, who condone acid violence.

"Women are in a subordinate position and they are socially, economically, politically, culturally dependent on men," she explains, "Men are with this supreme power. They think that if they like this [women] - it's their property. If they like it, they can keep it and if they don't, they can destroy it."

As executive director, Monira Rahman says her foundation has raised awareness and brought about institutional change in Bangladesh, including the passage of laws to discourage acid violence attacks.

"There was no law on acid violence issues. We have been able to advocate with government - government has passed two laws - one for the speedy trial of the perpetrators, another for controlling the availability of acid," she states.

Rahman's trauma center also helps the victims of acid violence to recover psychologically and economically. She says many victims come to view the center as a home away from home.

Monira Rahman and her foundation are giving hope, not only to the victims of gender-based violence in Bangladesh, but also to those who have suffered similar attacks in other parts of the world.