Acid Attack Survivors From Cafe Sheroes On New Dreams And Life After Attack
- IWB Post
- September 4, 2019
In close proximity to Taj Mahal in Agra lies a restaurant café called Sheroes Hangout. It is the cafe’s staff that is it’s USP. The cafe is entirely run by acid attack survivors.
Founded by Stop Acid Attacks in 2014, Sheroes’ aim is to spread awareness about acid attacks and to boost the confidence of the survivors. Apart from working at the cafe as either the chefs or waitresses, the survivors are given counseling. They are also encouraged to talk about it so as to remove the stigma.
Elle recently reached out to the cafe’s staff and jotted down their individual stories. Here are the excerpts:
Raukaiya Khatun, 32
Raukaiya was left extremely traumatised after her sister’s brother-in-law chucked acid on her face for refusing his marriage proposal. She was just 15 when it all transpired. She didn’t leave her house for years.
“I had always dreamed of starting a boutique. I really enjoyed sewing. But after the attack I just stopped going out. I stopped speaking to everyone. So my dream stayed in my heart,” she shares.
“I kept fighting. I didn’t recognise myself anymore but then I found Sheroes,” she shares.
On 12 May, 2012, Bala was attacked at her own house on 12 May 2012 by her parents’ employer after a dispute. She says, “A woman’s face is the most essential aspect of her beauty – they think the girl will sit at home and no one will marry her.”
She was a very shy girl when she first joined Sheroes. Since then a lot has changed, she has learned to read and write and has also picked up English from the tourists. She also learned to be more comfortable in her own skin.
“I realised what happened wasn’t my fault. And I don’t cover my face as I walk anymore,” she says.
Bala is unhappy with the way law deals with cases of acid attack victims in India. She says, “Some victims’ cases are not even registered. If they are, these men appeal and get released on bail – what kind of message does that send?”
Madhu was 17 and already engaged when a local asked her for marriage. She refused.
“He said to me: ‘Marry me or run away with me. Otherwise see what I’ll do to you,’” Madhu shares.
One day he approached her with a can of Pepsi in his hands. “I thought he’ll come and talk to me but he didn’t. He just poured acid on me. I shouted and screamed, but the street was empty. I passed out and woke up in the hospital.”
Madhu’s mother was threatened by the guy’s family when she tried to register a case.
“Boys grow up used to getting what they want. So as adults, they think: ‘I desire this woman and I’ll marry her’. Men think women are worthless – like they’re dirt of the bottom of your shoe. And that’s why these attacks happen,” says Madhu.
Shabnam was attacked at the age of 15 by an ex-employee in her own house in the middle of the night.
“Before I didn’t want to go on living but now I feel like I’ve got a new family,’ she says talking about Sheroes. ‘I’ve been given a new life,” adds Shabnam.
She further shares, “I used to think ‘I’m the only one who walks around with this ugly face’ but when I came to Sheroes I saw [other] people’s bravery. Why did I waste seven years of my life staying inside? Now I earn a salary and people listen to me. Customers ask “what happened to you?” and I tell them.”