The pictures of Hasrun Idrishi were posted on the walls of the Fatima Foundation, an organization we were visiting in Birganj, which works with Muslim women in the community; a group highly marginalized, not only for their gender but for religious reasons as well.
Her story is an inspiring one, and I thought it would be a good example of the pains and hardships women deal with in Nepal. She had been married off to her prospective husband, but shortly afterwards, when her new family realized her father could not pay her dowry, decided to take â€˜justiceâ€™ into their own hands. Hasrunâ€™s husband, brother and mother in law poured kerosene over her entire body and lit a match. The effects were devastating of course, when just barely escaping death she had 75% of her body burnt.
The Fatima Foundation was able to intervene in her case and attempted to bring justice, and managed to arrest the perpetrator, who received a mere 2 years in jail. The Foundation was also able to bring Hasrun to the attention of UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), who flew her to Kathmandu for immediate treatment and care. She spent 7 months recuperating for her wounds, and the pictures on the wall of the foundation were proof of it. They were surrealâ€¦ They showed her raw wounds straight after the incident, with her swollen tongue protruding out of her mouth, her hair chopped off short, and her bloody wounds covering her. But as time passed, her internal and external wounds started healing. Once back in Birganj and seeing it very hard to reintegrate to society, the Fatima Foundation offered her basic skills training. Once discovering she had a gift for sowing and designing dresses, the Foundation managed to designate her 20 thousand rupees, enough for her to open a shop. This meant that she was now a financially independent woman, not having to rely on her family or her husbandâ€™s family.
This amazing and touching success story, although laudable and worthy of much praise, is just one case that the Fatima Foundation has been able to help. So many other women in the community though suffer from domestic violence and gender discrimination issues without ever coming forward, which have spurred the popularity of the Foudationâ€™s awareness raising campaigns, educational campaigns, and skills development programs.
This was an excellent example of an organization lead by women, working for women. But most importantly, working for change; change inside the society, inside the minds of Muslim women, and now with a 33% representation of women in the Constituent Assembly, maybe even a change at the policy level.