We are the World Blogfest (#WATWB) focuses on positive stories no matter where they’re found. It is all about spreading peace and humanity on social media.
In the spirit of WATWB, In darkness be the light, I’m sharing a story from Stop Acid Attacks, an organization that campaigns against acid attacks and other forms of burn violence, and for the protection of survivors’ rights. The survivors often hail from underprivileged, extremely conservative backgrounds, and are now being provided an education and a safe place to continue pursuing their dreams. Here’s a news snippet in the LA Times that talks about some of their work.
Today’s story is that of Rupali Vishwakarma, who was attacked a few years ago—acid was poured on her by someone she had considered a friend and mentor, in her previous life as an aspiring actress. The culprit was arrested, served a jail term of 1 year, and is now free to roam. (This fills me with rage–the injustice of it.)
Rupali now works at the Sheores cafe, Lucknow, India, an initiative launched by Stop Acid attacks. The Sheroes cafes are run entirely by acid attack survivors. Having one’s face destroyed in horrific ways leaves deep psychological trauma, as well as physical scars: in making them visible, customer-facing servers at cafes, the organization has helped rebuild confidence in these survivors. It also builds awareness and social acceptance.
Rupali today is married to one of her colleagues, and with support from Stop Acid Attacks, is working towards establishing her identity beyond that of an acid attack survivor, as a choreographer. (Based on my feedback on an earlier post about acid attacks, I’m adding a warning: video might be upsetting to some audiences.)
I’m posting it because despite being a harsh reality, it is also a powerful story of a woman who has lost it all and is reclaiming her life inch by inch. I’ve hesitated about posting pictures before–I do not support all the selfies taken in the name of ‘social good’. For WATWB today though, I’ve decided to trust my readers to see the beauty and strength despite the devastation–and let Rupali speak about her aspirations.
During my research for my novel, You Beneath Your Skin, I spoke to some of the acid attack survivors. I remember it as an overwhelming experience, but very soon, just by being themselves, these girls taught me to see them for who they were. They have this beautiful sisterhood of survivors, there’s a lot of joy and laughter (and small disagreements, like any group). Violence, especially violence from men, has tried to rob them of their identity, but they have a cheerful defiance of the odds, and are redefining their own roles in society.
There is still much work to be done, in terms of education, counseling and mentorship–but the life of an acid attack survivor now at Sheroes is far better than one they would have had with their families, with little support for their treatment, and shunned by the very society that has wronged them.
What positive stories have you witnessed lately? Have you ever met an acid attack survivor? What would you say to Rupali Vishwakarma?
If you’d like to help an acid attack survivor like Rupali, please consider giving a small amount to the rebuilding efforts of one of Sheroes Cafes.
This post was the installment of the monthly We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join, if you haven’t as yet, to post the last Friday of each month a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity.