Unstoppable Jesmin made her dreams come true

Ms. Jesmin Akter (38) born and brought up in Barisal Sadar, Bangladesh, faced an acid attack on 27 September 2000 at the age of 16. This dreadful incident happened because she refused a marriage proposal. Jesmin’s father filed a case against the perpetrator and Ms. Jesmin received medical treatment support from various organizations.

Following this attack, Ms. Jesmin continued to face tremendous amount of social stigma and victim blaming from various avenues, but nothing could stop her from forging ahead. After overcoming lots of struggles, Ms. Jesmin completed her master’s degree from Barisal Govt. College. Since 2007, ActionAid Bangladesh is mentoring her. From that time, she became a member of Shetu Bandhan Gori Network – the first nationwide network for acid survivors in Bangladesh -- which provided her a sense of belonging and comfort. Eventually Jasmin Akter became the leader of the Shetu Bandhan Gori network in Barishal, where she mobilized the acid survivors and provided them with moral support to motivate them for becoming self-reliant -- linking them with income generating opportunities. In 2017, she participated in the survivors' runway show “Beauty Redefined” in Dhaka and London – a signature event by ActionAid Bangladesh and participated by acid survivors.

From 2019, Ms. Jasmin started working with Women Rights and Gender Equity team of ActionAid Bangladesh as a fellow. During that time, she was monitoring the activities of Shetu Bandhan Gori Network in Satkhira, Barishal, Patuakhli, Sirajgonj and Dinajpure while supporting acid survivors to tap their inner potential through income generating activities.

In 2020, Ms. Jasmin Akter received the Joyeeta award for the first time at district level in the category of “Women who are enterprising in a new life by removing the horrors of torture” ( নির্যাতনের বিভীষিকা মুছে ফেলে নতুন জীবনে উদ্যোগী যে নারী). Joyeeta Awards is a Government of Bangladesh initiative introduced in 2011. It has been successful in making an impact in raising awareness on women’s empowerment. ActionAid Bangladesh’s local partner AVAS supported Ms. Jesmin to submit the nomination for the award. Due to Ms. Jesmin’s persistency in her work to positively impact the lives of acid survivors, in 2022, she received Joyeeta award again at divisional level in the same category. In 2022, she received the prestigious award in the same category continuously for the third time by successfully depicting her immense strength of character and indomitable spirit, through her work. This time, she received the award at the national level.

In Ms. Jesmine’s words, she did not expect to receive this award at the first place, she still can’t believe that she won the award three times and now at the national level. She has seen many women applying for this award, but not getting selected. This award made her realize that she is special and gifted. She is now more confident and more motivated to continue working for changing lives of other women like her – whose fate were trying to be determined by the environment, but who continued to push back and keep moving forward. They did not let themselves to be held back by the traumatizing acid attacks.

Ms. Jesmine acknowledges that her journey with ActionAid Bangladesh supported her to create a different life not only for herself, but also to work towards creating opportunities for many other women acid survivors.

From ActionAid Bangladesh’s experience, it has been observed that, despite having to go through a lot of struggles and criticisms, the acid survivors have never let their past define them. Their unbelievable level of courage and enormous talent made them pursue their journey ahead. Even if receiving small amount of support from reliable sources can create humongous positive differences in the lives of these individuals.