A group of International Development and Globalization students at uOttawa are hosting a fundraiser next Monday for acid attack survivors in Bangladesh.

Featuring Bangladeshi food, music, and culture as well as expert presentations, the Wine and Samosas fundraiser will support the Acid Survivors Foundation, which provides medical and social services to Bangladeshi victims of acid violence.

“Acid violence” refers to the throwing of corrosive acid into a person’s face, leaving the victim with severe physical disabilities, reduced economic prospects, and often a lasting social stigma. The majority of victims are young women, who are often targeted in retaliation after rejecting sexual advances or marriage proposals.

Event organizers Rebecca Klaassen, Benjamin Stiver, Katie Redwood, Shevaun Ensor-Harrison, Laura Feltham, and Emilie Carriere were inspired to “raise funds and awareness” for this issue while on a field research course in Bangladesh, researching gender-based violence. The group worked under Professor Nipa Banerjee and the Bangladesh-based NGO BRAC.

The students saw the effects of acid violence firsthand during a visit to the Acid Survivors Foundation. Meeting young victims of acid attacks was “a very emotional, hard-hitting experience,” Klaassen told The Fulcrum.

She stresses that gender-based violence is a worldwide problem and acid attacks are not unique to Bangladesh. “It’s a phenomenon that happens all around the world,” she explained, “but Bangladesh has the highest rates.” Klaassen partially attributes the high levels of attacks to the dominance of the garment industry, which facilitates easy access to dangerous chemicals.

The group “left very impressed” by the work of the ASF, which provides medical care and free legal advice for acid victims, as well as well as employment services and re-integration programs. “They’re doing such amazing work and we really wanted to give back to that cause.”

The November 30th fundraiser will begin with a reception featuring Bangladeshi food and culture, including a henna station and photo display, and conclude with a series of expert presentations. Speakers include Professor Banerjee, Mr. Dewan Mahmud of the High Commission of Bangladesh to Ottawa, and the event organizers themselves.

Dr. Banerjee’s presentation will largely focus on the value of study-abroad programs, which she says promote empathy and provide a “great learning experience” that cannot be replicated in a classroom. The initiative taken by her students in organizing the ASF fundraiser provides a clear example of the transformative effect of overseas programs; Banerjee believes that even more than the funds raised, the major impact of the event will be the “nurturing [of] understanding and empathy” for people in other parts of the world.

Ticket price is $10.00 for students and $20.00 for the general public, with one-hundred percent of the proceeds donated directly to the ASF. “We’ve been trying to keep it very low-cost,” Klaassen explained, adding that the event is being sponsored by the SFUO and the School of International Development and Global Studies, with food donated by local Bangladeshi and Indian restaurants.

Tickets can be purchased from Rebecca Klaassen or at the AEDSA office until November 30th.

Originally published in The Fulcrum as Field research course helps student group make a world of difference; November 26, 2015. 

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