Birangona means “Brave Woman”.
It was a term created as a mark of respect for the 200,000 – 400,000 women and girls that were raped and tortured by the Pakistani army during Bangladesh's 1971 Liberation War.
However, after the war ended, these survivors were not only ignored by the rest of the world, they were silenced by their own communities. Having suffered rape, torture pregnancies and enforced abortions, many were made to return to their villages, families and husbands and never allowed to speak of what had happened to them.
To this day, there are thousands of Birangona living in poverty, rejected by local people for the ‘sin’ of having been raped, and having to witness their children and grandchildren face endless discrimination. With each day that passes, the Birangona of
Bangladesh are dying out, and with them, their stories: stories that contributed to the making of a nation, and stories which we, as part of an international community striving to end sexual violence in conflict, cannot afford to ignore.
In 2011 Leesa Gazi decided to try to shed light upon the stories of the Birangona by speaking with those she could find and documenting their stories on film. In 2013 Komola Collective went to Dhaka to record more women's tales, and use them to develop our show Birangona: Women of War, which has since toured the UK, been nominated for an Off-West-End Award, and returned to Bangladesh for a country-wide tour December 2014.
In partnership with Openvizor and Making Herstory we are creating a documentary film, entitled Rising Silence. Conceived and directed by Leesa, this film will not only bring the Birangonas' war-time experiences to the world stage, but will highlight the ongoing injustices survivors of sexual violence face in post-war situations. A minimum of 50% of all profits of this documentary will be invested into the creation of a foundation for Birangona women and their families.