Selina Ahmed Ena
Executive Director, ASF
The Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) was formed in 1999 to combat the rising instances of acid violence in Bangladesh. Acid causes skin tissue to melt and survivors tell horrifying stories of pain and stigma attached to the severe disfiguration it results in. The motivations behind the attacks vary, but most include a hurt ego over a man’s marriage proposal or sexual advance being rejected, or revenge over a domestic issue.
ASF reports that the effects of acid violence keep women from fully participating in society as most of them discontinue their education and work after. Along with physical injuries, victims suffer fear, anxiety, fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleeping and eating disturbances and in some cases complete mental breakdowns.
ASF aims to reduce and eventually eliminate acid attacks in Bangladesh and works to support survivors. They provide holistic burn care services, counselling and psychiatric services, legal assistance, and financial support. They also work with the government to influence decisions on a policy level and run national campaigns to raise awareness and prevent further acid violence. ASF recorded the highest number of instances of acid violence in 2002 with 496 attacks, but through their efforts, the numbers have declined significantly with only 10 attacks recorded in 2017 so far. The declining trend of acid violence is a testament to ASF’s work where their campaigns have led to many unprecedented institutional and policy reforms including strong punishment against attackers, and new laws to deter access to acid.
iProbono was able to support ASF by connecting them to Apex Court Chambers who provide legal services in corporate, administrative, and commercial law but also have a focus on human rights and social justice. Prior to this, ASF did not have specific regulations on fundraising and accepting donations from local fundraisers which made them vulnerable. Barrister Elin Emon Saha provided information on international fundraising regulations and guidelines on responsibilities of fundraisers in regard to their stakeholders and the rights of the beneficiaries. The reference document was helpful for ASF to develop their own fundraising strategy and guidelines.
ASF’s work in Bangladesh has inspired other initiatives in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Uganda. To learn more about their work visit: http://www.acidsurvivors.org. To help ASF eliminate acid violence and provide support to survivors, visit: http://www.acidsurvivors.org/How-to-Donate