Hon Yogi AdityaNath, Please don't SHUT DOWN acid attack survivor's cafe Sheroes Hangout
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Respected Yogi Aditynath,
I am writing to you to bring the news of Shut Down of the only cafe & reach out project run for the benefit of acid attack survivors in our state, UP. Despite all the efforts put by us, we are forced to vacate the Lucknow cafe in the next three days with an excuse that this cafe has no reason to run. There are more than 20 girls who fear that they will have to re-live the life they have overcome from. To bring you the fact that this project has received Nari Shakti Award by the President of India and has received global appreciations for its unique way of bringing help to the survivors who have been marginalized after disfigurement. First and foremost are the 12 acid attack survivors of Sheroes Hangout cafe who find themselves without a paycheck with very little notice. Not only will they and their families pay the price, but at least two dozen other survivors who receive supports in terms of treatment, training, legal help and counseling will be affected, damaging a wave that has brought a hope in the women after their brutal experiences. At a time when there is no other support system by the government or any civil society organization, we simply cannot afford this kind of injustice done to us.
Cafe Sheroes provide structure for many young acid attack survivors across the state who are in dire need of support. We try to help our young members develop their skills, and try to teach them values, and the skills necessary to have a life that is not of a victim but a fighter. I remember the first day I met any other acid attack survivor in my life at Lucknow’s cafe on Mar 8 in the year 2016, when this project was inaugurated. We, a dozen of us, moved to this new destination of our hope and started working together thinking that this will unite the civil society to bring my pligh and of my friends at Sheroes. When I was at home, I used to being alone, and that familiar feeling of “abandonment” lingered in my mind until I experienced Sheroes.
With a team of acid attack survivors I started keeping high hopes, I thought about this new space where I could start fresh. I remember when guests from Lucknow first came up to all of us. It actually took a couple of days to them to be normal to us and start talking us. Now when almost 30 months have been passed, a connection that we developed with the society and the business that has stood on its own, about 12 of us who are the full time employees of the cafe, are going to suffer becuase there is a silence from the authorities.
We talked about the issues of acid attack survivors over the dinners and coffees, we spent countless time with our guests on how we can bring the change. The guests we met brought us back into the life and we grew stronger everyday. We have hosted hundreds of events that inculed debates, talkshows and workshops. Sheroes has become a kind of centre for change amplifying and assisting the unfolding of transformation within the individual who come to visit us. It is a work space but I think Sheroes is different to all of us, it is a space that influence the thoughts of millions. Now, of course, the landscape has changed, with guests more conscious than ever before of how to minimize the violence in our society. And with increased awareness comes an increase in responsibility for the guests who now understand the plight and stigme attached to the disfigurement survivors.
In a timespam of just two years, sustainability of our cafe reached to a point that we have built a strong business that can withstand economic uncertainties is a great way to give back to the survivors who earn from the project. Despite the non-cooperation of the Mahila Kalyan Nigam who held the grant of more than 18 months, Sheroes managed all the operating expenditures, and staff salaries that are substantial for a Non Profit organization who cannot realistically expect to break even before two years. We successfully took this business to ten time from where we started. There are more that 15 survivors, who are in dire needs, are awating to get a job at Sheroes Project. The job of 12 acid attack survivors are potentially on the stake and more than 25 survivors will have an adverse impact in their treatments and rehabilitation activities. We are worried because hundreds of women each year are being attacked by acid and exploited by their society "who humiliate, violate and control them". Figures published by NCRB found that Uttar Pradesh reports the highest number of acid attacks in the country and we need to put more and more efforts to bring down such attacks.
I am writing to you to convey that we are not left with any other option but to protest for the sake of our livelihood. In the event of a shutdown, we the acid attack survivors are prepared. Our work and services will be maintained. There are simply so many roads and footpaths to work around. And if the government is unable -- or unwilling to run the cafe or to pay us our remaining salaries and benefits, we will work harder on the streets and pay the price. I hope those responsible for the current situation of such a noble initiative understand the fight, we fought together, to bring this issue in the mainstream society.
Sir, we are not protesting against the conduct of the UP Government, but against the corruption practiced and insincerities of the Mahila Kalyan Nigam and WCD for which we, the acid attack survivors, are being sacrificed. We have to do something in this highly critical situation to save our families from a dark future. On behalf of all the survivors, what I hope are the belief of all my collegues, in our Chief Minister, I ask that you act swiftly and decisively to help us save our jobs.
We ask your help.
A glace at the impact of cafe Sheroes Hangout
- Networked and benifited more than 50 acid attack survivors to the project in terms of medical, financial and legal needs. Provided full time jobs to 12 acid attack survivors, created the opportunity to employ upto 25 survivors to empower them financially.
- Hosted more than a 10K guest at Sheroes cafes and added around a million supporters to our campaign on social media with a pledge to Stop Acid Attacks.
- More than 50 documentries have been shot on the Sheroes Model of rehablitation which has brought the issue of acid violence in public debates.
- German First Lady Elke Büdenbender, Hollywood Actor Jason Isaacs, Miss Universe GB, actors such as Sanjay Dutt, Rajkumar Rao, Dia Mirja, Iulia Vantur, Swara Bhaskar, Divya Dutta, Zakir Khan, Shatrughan Sinha and many other celebrities visited the project and extended their support.
- The campaign recieved international recognition from the governments of the United States, Germany and Spain and has been awarded by dozens of credible organizations.
- Indian of the Year awards by CNN-IBN & NDTV groups, Nari Shakti Award by President of India and uncountable other recognitions.
Despite these facts, Mahila Kalyan Nigam finds it worth shutting down that raises a valid question on their intentions.
How we can get heard?
We must not sit idly by in our houses and not be concerned about what happens in a distant city in Lucknow. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Friends and believers in the case can sign this petition and bring our plight to the knowledge of our Chief Minister Mr. Yogi Adityanath.
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