Arts

Photo: Courtesy of Rebecca Klaassen.

Student-run event showcases Bangladeshi culture while raising money for the acid attack survivors

What do henna, a silent auction, and wine all have in common? They’re all a part of the Wine and Samosas fundraising event that a group of University of Ottawa students are hosting on Nov. 30.

Featuring Bengali food, music and culture, as well as expert presentations, the fundraiser will support the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), which provides medical and social services to Bengali 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. Bangladesh has the highest rate of acid attacks against women in the world.

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 ASF headquarters in Bangladesh.

“You meet young women who are about the same age as we are and it affects their lives so much,” said Klaassen, a fourth-year international development and globalization student. “It’s just a very emotional, hard-hitting experience.”

Klaassen notes that although Bangladesh has the highest rates of acid attacks of women, gender-based violence is a worldwide problem and acid attacks are not unique to Bangladesh.

“The garment industry is so large there and they often are using hazardous or unsafe materials. Violence against women happens in all different forms, all over the world, including in our own society, and this is just one of the forms in which it happens there.”

Besides providing medical care and social services, the ASF also offers free legal advice, employment services and reintegration programs to victims.

The fundraiser will begin with a reception featuring Bengali food and culture, including a henna station and photo display, and conclude with a series of expert presentations. Speakers include Professor Banerjee, Dewan Mahmud of the High Commission of Bangladesh to Ottawa, and the students who went on the trip 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.

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.

Tickets are $10 for students and $20 for the general public, with all proceeds donated directly to the ASF. The event is being sponsored by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa and the School of International Development and Global Studies, with food donated by local Bangladeshi and Indian restaurants.

Tickets can be purchased from the International Development and Globalization Student Association office in FSS 2039 until Nov. 30 or at the door, if they are not sold out. The event will take place in FSS 4007, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Check out the Facebook event page for more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/1651249368463231/.