Rumana Manzur, a teacher of University of Dhaka who was blinded and maimed in an attack by her ex-husband in June 2011, has recently completed her first year of law school at University of British Columbia.
Struggling with a set of challenges -- accepting the fact of being blind, relearning of study procedure, communicating with her only daughter, and difficulties of mobility -- to fit in her everyday routine, Rumana is working hard to remain in her game, Canadian daily The Vancouver Sun reports after interviewing her.
The newspaper spoke with her on campus about the challenges of finishing her degree without her sight and as a single parent, why she is now studying to become a lawyer and how things are changing for women in her native Bangladesh.
Rumana said she wants to help the deprived women of Bangladesh to establish their legal rights, once she becomes a lawyer after completion of her study.
Rumana wants to become a human rights lawyer while she also have plan about environmental study.
"Until support comes from the society, I don't think that change can be possible, as Bangladeshi women feel that talking about domestic violence is shame for them," she said.
She will speak at a fundraising event, organised by Equal Play, an organisation that hopes to encourage opportunities for women in sports both on and off the field, on May 10 at Vogue Theatre of Canada, according to the Canadian daily.
Rumana will share her childhood experience and talk about gender discrimination that is imposed by the society.
Other speakers include: former prime minister Kim Campbell; US soccer star Brandi Chastain; and Carrie Serwetnyk, the Equal Play founder and the first woman to be inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame.
Below is the exerpt of the interview taken by Tara Carman of The Vancouver Sun:
Q: A master’s degree is a big accomplishment, especially for someone who’s essentially had to relearn how to study. What were your biggest challenges?
A: The first challenge that I had was, of course, struggling with myself. I couldn’t accept that I became blind ... I was just depressed and couldn’t do anything. But then I told myself that other people can see you and I won’t let anyone else decide how I will live my life. So that’s the realization, and especially my daughter, she was a big motivation. When you have an eight-year-old, you really don’t have time to grieve. So I had to be better for her and for my parents.
Secondly ... I had to study now by listening. Previously, I used to listen to music to go to sleep. Now I had to listen to study, so that was another challenge. And I didn’t have the skills. I wasn’t born blind, so I had to learn the skills (which) mean a lot of effort and practice and I guess I wasn’t prepared for it. All my life, my brain was really functional, so when I wasn’t studying or anything ... I felt kind of brain-dead. So I just realised that, OK, I have to go back to studies, that’s my comfort zone. That’s what led me, kind of forced me, to start my studies. And communicating with my daughter, finding alternative ways to communicate with her, by touch and by description.
Q: What kind of skills did you have to relearn?
A: Even walking ... (at first) I was having trouble even standing straight. I wasn’t able to understand which part of the bed I’m sitting (on) ... I guess my other senses were not strong enough right at that point. And then computer skills. We have a program ... for visually impaired and I need to learn it. I have started, but when I started law school I didn’t have time for anything else. My outside mobility ... even to go (somewhere) very near, I have to ask my friend to take me there. So it’s all those things, and accepting those things is the biggest thing.
Q: Why do you want to be a lawyer?
A: When I was going through the legal system back home and then I’m still facing the legal challenges ... that’s when I felt, you know, I belong to the most highly educated (group) of women in my country. If that is the case for me, that I have to go through these challenges, what is happening to all those other women who don’t even have access to money or power or anything, any resources? So I just felt that I have to really do something about it and I felt that law is a very empowering tool as well.
Q: What kind of law do you want to practice?
A: I still haven’t decided, but my bachelor’s and my first master’s is in international relations (from the University of Dhaka), so of course I’m always biased toward it. My (second) master’s ... thesis is in environmental security, so I have that passion. I also wanted to work in human rights. I’m keeping my options open and recently I found out that I enjoy criminal law as well.
Q: In South Asia, lately, there’s been more attention to violence against women with the gang rape case in New Delhi. Do you think the reaction to that case and others like it is a sign that things are changing in that part of the world with regard to violence against women?
A: Every change needs time, but I’m glad that people are knowing about these things. Before, people hesitated to talk ... I know that many people in my country still, they are suffering domestic violence and they think that it’s a shame for themselves to talk about it or share it with anyone and sometimes they are just scared. The most important thing is ... that the society is supporting women. Like for me, my ex-husband was only caught when my students at the University of Dhaka and my colleagues ... put pressure on the police force. (He died in jail in Bangladesh in December 2011.) Until that support comes from the society, I don’t think that change can be possible.
Q: Tell me about this talk you’ll be giving next week at the Equal Play event.
A: I (will be) sharing my childhood experience when I was growing up about sports and how girls are discriminated against ... All those invisible rules. They were not imposed by my family, they were imposed by my society.