People are flocking to Sheroes not only because of its great offerings, but also because the staff is made up entirely of acid attack survivors, all of whom are incredibly inspirational.
In India, particularly the state of Uttar Pradesh, it is becoming increasingly common for women to be attacked by acid. According to The Establishment, when a man is rejected – usually by way of being left in a relationship or refused marriage, it is not uncommon for him to throw acid on a woman to make her ‘damaged’. The logic of the heinous crime is this: “Since you cannot be mine, I will disfigure you so that no one ever finds you attractive again.”
The emotional and physical scars caused by the disfiguration often results in victims withdrawing from society due to embarrassment. Even those who try to live normal lives tend to have a more difficult time finding jobs.
Fortunately, a relatively new cafe, located in Agra near the Taj Mahal, is helping to draw attention to acid attack survivors while helping them build fulfilling lives. The Sheroes Hangout Cafe was founded in December 2014 by acid survivors and is primarily run by women who have survived acid attacks. According to numerous sources, the environment is one of ease and acceptance and is rapidly gaining in popularity.
The Diplomat relays that the innovative cafe is the first of its kind in India and exists to engage society with the victims so that people may feel less uncomfortable with the survivors and the women may find the courage to acclimate back into society.
One of the managers of the cafe told the online resource:
“Sheroes is an attempt not only to provide jobs, but also to change the mindset of the people; to develop a soft corner in their minds for the victims and sensitize them to the issue. People should be engaged and survivors should be brought to the mainstream.”
Two initiatives, the Stop Acid Attacks campaign and the Chaanv Foundation, are behind the launch and success of the cafe. Ashish Shukla, who is a lead campaigner for Stop Acid Attacks, told Al Jazeera:
“The idea behind opening this cafe was not only to run a business but also to run an activity centre to spread awareness. People think that acid attack victims are from the outer world. Sheroes is an effort to make them believe that they are from this world only. Since we as a society are responsible for their scars, it is our responsibility to fix it and bring them into the mainstream of society.”
In addition to serving delectable coffee and food, a library, community radio hub, and boutique corner are also available to the public.
When a journalist for Al Jazeera visited Sheroes, they were informed by a customer that:
“It’s for a good cause. The idea is to rehabilitate the acid-attack victims and make them financially independent. I came out here to support the cause.”
The Sheroes website affirms this fact, stating:
“The women who work at Sheroes Hangout near the Taj Mahal in India are just like every other waitress, minus one detail: They’ve all lived through devastating assaults by men who threw acid in their faces.”
Now that Sheroes has gained international recognition, visitors from all around the world visit the cafe when they flock to see the grand Taj Mahal. You can learn more about the inspiring activists behind the initiative and the cafe’s offerings by visiting the establishment’s website.
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