by Annie Escobar
by Annie Escobar
past summer, as part of our Reynolds Program Internship program, Patricia
Schneidewind (a fellow Reynolds scholar) and I traveled to
Mussamat struck us with her beauty from the moment we saw her. She greeted us with a brilliant smile, making me second guess if she was the woman we would be interviewing. I didn't expect someone who had acid thrown on her face (by her husband after he insisted her family pay a higher dowry) to be so full of life. BRAC is now fighting her case in court to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Her interview was like many others. After convincing the inevitable crowd of interested neighbors to give us some space, we sat, just the three of us, in her courtyard. Ruhul, our good friend and translator, gave basic instructions about what our project was and then basically just told her to talk and then left (the women felt more at ease without the male presence).
Mussamat began speaking. She spoke quietly at first and then her voice developed a strength and a rhythm. For long moments she stared into the distance, letting a loud heaviness settle into the spaces between her words. My limited Bangla meant that I could only understand bits and pieces, but it was as if my body could feel it all. So much is communicated through the face, the voice, and the breath. My heart felt compressed and breathing became difficult. When she was finally done, half an hour later, we quietly shut the camera off and all held each other and cried. And then, in a moment that is still profoundly humbling, Mussamat took her scarf and slowly, gently wiped the tears and sweat from my face. It is a moment I draw strength from every day.
Suddenly, a feeling of lightness came over us and we all started cracking up. We laughed and danced in that courtyard until it was time to leave.
The last image of her in my mind is of her beaming, holding her daughter, sending us away with a giant wave. As we drove away, I asked Ruhul if he heard her say how old she was.
"22," he answered.
The same age as Patricia.
When we left her house that day I made myself a promise. That I would make sure that we were not the only ones carrying that testimony.
me, our experience in
Today, a year after launching this project, Mussamat's, Julekha's and others' stories will be passed on. My hope is that these women and their stories can give others the inspiration to believe in their own strength and courage to confront injustice.
Visit www.brac.net/courageintheheart to see these stories. Carry them with you. And please, share this project with anyone you can.
Photo Credit Annie Escobar, ListeninPictures