The first fundraising campaign was small in nature but it carried a simple message "Stop Violence against Women". The original plan was to raise funds to assist the families of Yasmin Akhter (raped and murdered in Dinajpur in 1995) and Rahela Begum (raped and brutally abused in Dhaka, 2004). Unfortunately, we were too late to help Rahela who died on September 24, 2004.
The program took place at the Australian National University on October 1, 2004. We showed "Dushshomoy" by Yasmine Kabir, followed by a brief overview of violence against women in Bangladesh.
We raised AUD$500 which is equivalent to 22,000 Taka.
We thought the hardest task was to raise the money! It proved to be quite time consuming to find Yasmin's family who lived in a remote area in Dinajpur. Through a local organization, Caritas, Dinajpur (which works with indigenous communities in the area) and two local newspapers (Protidin and Teesta) we were able to locate Sharifa Begum, Yasmin's mother. Caritas brought her to Dinajpur town and held a reception (photos included). They also organized a program on 'Violence against Women' and handed over the cheque to Sharifa Begum on 13th February, 2005.
Who was Yasmin Akhter?
Many of you would remember Yasmin Akhter, a 14 year old girl who worked as a domestic worker in Dhaka. Yasmin, on her way back home in Dinajpur, got down at Dashmile crossing from a Panchagarh-bound bus on August 24, 1995. As she was waiting for a Dinajpur-bound bus, a police team on-patrol duty picked her up in their van on false pretext of giving her a lift to her village home. They later raped and killed her.
The incident evoked widespread condemnation and during the street demonstrations in Dinajpur, seven individuals were killed by the police. The Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal of Rangpur awarded the death penalties to three policemen and six policemen were acquitted for a lack of evidence on August 31, 1997. Two of the policemen were executed on September 1, 2004. It was the first time that policemen in Bangladesh went to the gallows for such a serious crime.
The success in this case is not provisions of law or procedural effectiveness but popular public protest and a high degree of mobilization on the part of women's rights and human rights activists.