Sheroes, one of its kind of hang-out café maintained and run by acid attack victims opened its first branch close to the Taj Mahal in Agra followed by another one in the state capital Lucknow, India.
A smiling face of 23 years-old Neetu Mahour, wearing a white shirt with stop acid attacks written in bold red letters on its back greets customers from behind the counter at their Agra chapter. Scars on her face and neck tell the story of the horrific incident that happened to her. Acid thrown by her father 20 years ago left her almost blind; her mother was also injured in the attack and now she works in a café as well. They lost her infant sister Kishna in that attack.
She tells how she never went to school and always covered every inch of her face. But now Sheroes has given her an opportunity to bring herself back in public.
“The primary focus has been to create awareness,” says Alok Dixit, the founder of Stop Acid Attacks.
On the other hand kitchen in charge of Lucknow chapter Reshma dealt with this horrendous incident when she was pregnant with her son when his husband blazed her private organs with acid in July 2013, this incident brought down her will to survive. Reshma has come out of her den almost after 3 years and says, “About 10 days ago, I went for my Sheroes training in Agra and now I am confident to take care of the kitchen”.
“After a strong campaign against acid violence, Lucknow chapter of Sheroes has also been designed to function as a Reach Out Centre, where survivors can get all kind of support from the state and private citizens. This is unique initiative is in collaboration with Uttar Pradesh government. The women and child development department of UP is assisting more than 200 survivors in their treatment. We believe that this initiative can bring some change the perception that a person is less valuable because of their appearance”, says Chhanav Foundation campaigner Laxmi.
Sheroes hangout serves as an effort towards an activism against social menace as well as provides the means of livelihood to the otherwise looked down upon in the society.