Photo: Show your support for Rumana Monzur

By Winnie Hwo, Climate Change Campaigner

All she wanted was to learn and to finish writing her master's thesis on the effects of climate change on her native country of Bangladesh. But all that will be put on hold.

Rumana Monzur, 33, an assistant professor of international relations at Dhaka University, a Fulbright scholar and a graduate student in political science at the University of B.C., was sideswiped after an alleged attack by her husband that left her blind and disfigured. According to UBC president Stephen Toope, Monzur's commitment to her studies is said to have been a factor in the attack.

The horrific ordeal took place when Monzur visited her husband and five-year-old daughter in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in early June. Monzur was working on her thesis at home when her husband allegedly attacked her in front of their young daughter. Media reports said her husband was arrested by Bangladeshi police 10 days after allegedly gouging out her eyes and biting off her nose. Now, Monzur is left with little prospect of regaining her vision and many questions about what the future holds for her and her daughter.

Latest figures from the United Nations show one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault each year. In most cases, the culprit is an intimate partner.

As a climate change campaigner at the David Suzuki Foundation, I am deeply offended and outraged by the attack itself and by the motive behind it. Although my work is mainly focused on fighting for climate action, it is by no means only about protecting the environment — it is also about defending humanity and fighting for social justice. In our global society, the ones who are least able to fend off negative impacts of climate change are also the ones who have contributed the least to climate change. In Monzur's case, the only reasons she was attacked were because she's a woman and that she wanted to learn.

Monzur is returning to Vancouver this afternoon with her father. Her daughter and mother will follow shortly. Although she is safe for now, she must still go through a number of hurdles to resume any form of a normal life. I sincerely hope Monzur will get the help she needs to complete her master's thesis on climate change and to continue to be the fabulous scholar that she is.

To date more than $35,000 has been raised. Although the full extent of medical and rehabilitative costs are not yet known, the university has set a goal of $70,000 in hopes of covering all costs for the family while Rumana recovers and completes her studies. You can help Monzur and her daughter by donating to this special fund set up by UBC.

UBC's St. John's College is also hosting a special dialogue called "Justice for Rumana Monzur: A debate about violence against women from a legal and global perspective", on Wednesday, July 6, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

July 5, 2011

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