Rumana Monzur stands behind podium addressing speakers series attendees

Hope and Hard-Won Wisdom Out of Darkness

  • June 10, 2024
  • Direct quotes from Rumana Monzur

After suffering a brutal attack at the hands of her then husband that left her blind, Rumana Monzur not only went on to complete her master’s degree, graduate from law school and work as a litigator for the Department of Justice in Vancouver, she became an advocate for the rights of women and persons living with disabilities. Her remarkable tale of perseverance, her pursuit of justice and her personal triumph are captured in a new book by Denise Chong, Out of Darkness. But, at an intimate OBA Speakers Series event, featuring author and survivor, Rumana’s focus was forward, imparting some of the lessons on inclusion, accommodation, empathy and community she learned on her journey back to who she was before violence turned her life upside down. We’ve extracted some of the inspiring insights Rumana contributed to the conversation.

On community

“Where did I get that strength? I had to remind myself to trust myself, trust my family, trust my community. Because you just saw [in a news clip] what my friends did, what my community did for me. I was just a master’s student at UBC. If that day, my friends – which includes Mohsen [Seddigh] who is sitting here, he is part of that student advocacy – had accepted the attack on me as a mere consequence of the existing social evil, I would not be here in front of you today.”

On perspective

“Before, I used to see a wall as an obstacle that gave me bruises if I bumped into it. But now, a wall became a landmark for me that guides me to the right door. You have to believe in yourself; blind or not, everyone can look forward.”

On ingenuity and adaptability

“One of the hurdles was the law school admission test. I just lost my sight. I did not know how to read Braille. I did not know the computer. I did not know the software I now use to work … You know what a brutal exam the LSAT is. So, for the analytical reasoning part, I seriously got a magnetic board and magnetic letters – raised letters and numbers. I also got my daughter’s pipe cleaners and bangles so that I could draw all those diagrams on that magnetic board.”

On accommodation

“I did not know what accommodation I needed so it was an ongoing process but UBC was on board with me … it really felt like I had jumped into the ocean without knowing how to swim. And when UBC actually provided these life jackets, I felt that I was in good hands. It makes a huge difference.”

On disclosure

“I took a diversity test of my employers. I wrote in my cover letter, I am blind … Many law firms were not interested, but three were, and I ended up getting two offers.”

On using unconscious bias to one’s advantage

“I would say rather than discrimination, the thing I mostly face is unconscious bias because I don’t look like a litigation lawyer. When I enter somewhere, someone is guiding me. But actually, you know, I have learned to appreciate it as my advantage because I’m always underestimated.”

On upholding justice

“The legal profession has long been recognized for its ‘survival of the fittest’ model. But how do you define fittest? If you are looking at defining fittest from an ableist lens, then I want to ask you something: look at Lady Justice who is blindfolded. That will tell you, you don’t need your sight to uphold justice. Sometimes it creates bias. What you need is kindness, empathy, compassion, and as I said, understanding.”

On remaining true to oneself: parting words for up-and-coming lawyers

“To students, my message is never lose yourself; be yourself. And I know you hear it all the time. And then you’ll enter professional settings where you’re always, always trying to fit yourself. But I just want you to remember to never lose sight of your compassion, passion, and what you want to do in your life. Lead a meaningful life. Act like a human. Do what is right.”

View the on-demand video of the Speakers Series event - sponsored by Lawyers Financial.