Acid attacks can scar one for life – both physically and mentally. India has witnessed an alarming increase in the number of acid attack cases against women in the recent years.
The upcoming Deepika Padukone-starrer Chhapaak is the story of one such acid attack survivor, who has emerged to become a stronger and an inspirational figure for millions of women in the country today.
Similar stories of survivors, their valour and triumph have been shared with varying degrees of reach over the years. At the same time, it is equally important to recognise the support systems of these survivors, who are giving hope and love in what must have been the most traumatising and painful event in their lives.
A strong support, whether it comes from family members or organisations, especially when the victim faces social exclusion, plays a critical role to help them overcome pain and agony.
MAKERS India pays tribute to these organisations that have continued to be a pillar of support during the survivors’ most vulnerable times, and are championing the cause.
Chhanv Foundation provides all-round care to acid attack survivors. It offers medical care, counselling, arranges employment opportunities, and also helps raise funds for those who want to pursue further studies.
The Noida-based foundation is also focussed on awareness, rehabilitation, and empowerment. Besides running the ‘Stop Acid Attacks’ campaign, it engages in outdoor activities such as participating in TEDx talks and fashion shows, redefining the ideal beauty standards.
Additionally, seeing that the society is apprehensive to giving employment opportunities, founders and social activists Alok Dixit and Ashish Shukla started Sheroes Café Hangout in Agra and Lucknow, which is run by around 30 acid attack survivors.
Mumbai-based non-profit organisation Meer Foundation is focussed on rehabilitating acid attack survivors. Founded by Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan in 2013, the foundation is named after his late father Meer Taj Mohammad Khan, and aims to create a ‘network of support’.
Survivors can avail help in terms of medical aid, legal advice, counselling services, and vocational training. While the organisation does not seek financial help, Meer has secured multiple partnerships across field including Human Rights Law Network and Masina Hospital in New Delhi, National Burns Centre in Mumbai, and NGOs like Smile Foundation and Acid Survivors Saahas Foundation in Mumbai.
Shah Rukh Khan, who earned the prestigious Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum for his work through the foundation, has expressed his wish to “create an ecosystem that allows women, regardless of their history, to redefine, redo, or rework their lives the way they choose to, and the way they see fit.”
The actor is often personally involved in the survivor’s lives and shares celebratory tweets when the beneficiaries get married or go on to pursue their dreams.
Make Love Not Scars
Founded by Ria Sharma in 2014, Make Love Not Scars is a non-profit organisation that helps acid attack victims with legal, medical, educational, vocational, and psychological help.
Realising that the availability of over-the-counter acid is the major cause of rampant acid attack violence in India, the Delhi-based organisation ran a campaign called End Acid Sale.
The organisation caters to victims of all forms of gender-based violence through need-based training and skill development programmes to secure employment opportunities.
Ria, who is the first Indian to win UNICEF Global Goal Awards, started looking into the lives of acid attack survivors for a documentary project while pursuing her Master’s from Leeds College of Arts in the UK. However, her interaction with victims made her realise that more needs to be done and immediately, and she started the organisation.
Atijeevan Foundation also works towards making life easier for survivors of acid attacks and burn by providing financial, mental, and psychological help.
Founded in 2013 by Pragya Singh, an acid attack survivor herself and an activist, the Bengaluru-based foundation co-ordinates with doctors and professionals for medical advice. Apart from spreading the message that skin donation goes a long way in helping survivors, the foundation has worked with Meer Foundation, SIMS Hospital, and New Hope Medical Centre in Chennai to facilitate corrective surgeries to more than 50 survivors.
To make the survivors financially independent, Atijeevan (which translates to survival) also sells apparels like sarees and kurtas on its website.
Acid Survivors and Women Welfare Foundation
Acid Survivors and Women Welfare Foundation recognises acid violence as a global problem and that this gender-based violence takes a toll on the victim’s life physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
The foundation is primarily focussed on rebuilding the lives of those who have had to go through the pain and trauma of acid violence. It has come up with a new approach called Trauma Informed Care Kit (TICK) that outlines the best methods, tools, resources, and how to make the best use of these resources. It also extends legal support, medical help, and rehabilitation facilities.
Some of its initiatives include Siragu, where the foundation guides college students on women empowerment programmes in the slum areas and acid attack survivors in Chennai. ASWWF has also led project Samaran, where it showcases handicraft work of acid attack survivors, which is for sale in Kolkata.