October 19, 2022

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Sheroes: A Celebration of Freedom and Courage

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Overview:

  • Sheroes personify a determination to live-for oneself and be independent.
  • Acid Attack survivors continue to fight societal prejudice.
  • A coming of age story that inspires and triumphs.
  • Beyond the beauty of Taj Mahal, the city of Agra offers a blend of solidity and compassion through Sheroes.

The art of finding one’s purpose and living life through it really gives one a reason to shine. Sheroes, as the name suggests, are women who believe in breaking glass ceilings and making a difference. In a world of courageous humans, women are the epitome of bravery, palpable strength, determination, perseverance, and patience, ruling their lives with grace and a firm grip. 

Practically, we come across numerous Sheroes every day. Each of them carries a story that deserves to be shared with the world. One such story that deserves widespread attention is the story of Sheroes Cafe. A cafe run by a group of acid attack survivors who refuse to bow down to societal prejudices hindering their dignity and self-worth to live a fulfilling life. It is a community of beautiful ladies who collectively endorse the conquering idea of empowerment and enlightenment.

Sheroes Celebrating Freedom and Courage
Picture Credit: Girl Power Talk

Set up by the Chhanv foundation, it currently has a presence in three major cities in India—Agra, Lucknow, and Noida, with Agra being the first city to pioneer this crucial move. The flag bearers of this movement—the founders—were in a state of shock upon realizing the convenient and ignorant lookout society had towards acid attack survivors; hence, they founded Sheroes.

In the initial stages, the cafe commenced on its journey as a crowd-funded project. After a few years, it found its way and began running smoothly on its own. As we spoke with the survivors, they subtly described their sufferings, describing how they opted to stay indoors for years on end, which affected their mental health severely. Then, Sheroes breathed life into their dreams and aspirations, boosted their confidence, and gave them wings to fly. Since its inception, people’s support and understanding of the cause have only proliferated.

Be a Real-life Shero

One of the main reasons Sheroes Cafe was inaugurated was to support severe penalties for potential offenders, the adoption of strict legislation, and the complete prohibition of the free or unlicensed sale of acid. According to the law, any individual committing an acid attack faces a minimum of 10 years in prison, yet a good percentage of them have never been caught nor convicted. Statistically, several acid attack survivors have long been discouraged from pursuing stringent legal actions against their offenders. A few of the causes are disregarded case follow-ups, failure to file lawsuits due to feelings of revenge and jealousy, as well as a drawn-out and complicated legal system that discourages women from filing complaints. Additionally, they are done with the intention of inflicting mental and physical scars on the victims.

Thankfully, organizations like Girl Power Talk, renowned for being a purpose-driven organization, strive forward with an ambition to support the army of Sheroes. Before jointly founding Girl Power Talk, co-founders, Rachita Sharma and Sameer Somal, already had a long-standing relationship with Sheroes. They supported the cafe by actively participating in many of its promotion initiatives, supporting campaigns, and making resources readily available. In an attempt to disseminate what Sheroes stands for, they also began reporting significant events, and publishing individual accounts of Acid Attack survivors on their company’s website.

Sheroes Celebrating Freedom and Courage
Picture Credit: Girl Power Talk

Rachita Sharma, one of the co-founders, started working with Sheroes in 2018 to give back by raising her voice to create awareness and has been a regular spearheader since then. This pertinent collaboration has made it possible for numerous acid attack victims to achieve their goals and become financially independent. Together, they work to raise awareness about acid assaults and support them through various ongoing initiatives. 

The Sheroes cafe funds itself through the sale of handmade artifacts, jewelry, showpieces, sculptures and much more. The cafe offers a multitude of souvenirs to take with you. The story and the courage of the maker behind each piece simply adds to its value.

Sheroes Celebrating Freedom and Courage
Picture Credit: Girl Power Talk

Accelerating the collaboration to a new level, a meetup was organised in early June for the Young leaders of Girl Power Talk from all around India to be in Agra. Everybody was excited to interact, explore, and create for the shared objective, which made the visit successful. 

Simran Singh, a Young Leader at Girl Power Talk, states, “They’d been Girl Power Talk’s friends for a while, but I wasn’t sure how we’d rekindle our friendship. I hugged them as soon as we walked in. It was an unforgettable experience for me as we laughed, danced, and had meaningful and lovely conversations. I felt an immediate connection to them. They gave off a my-type-of-people vibe. I had a great time and a lot of fun.”

A Lively and Soulful Getaway

The Taj Mahal, one of the world’s most astonishingly well-preserved structures, is a famous landmark in Agra, Uttar Pradesh’s westernmost district. In the same city, Sheroes cafe, led by strong women, brings a hue of change to people’s senses with its vibrancy and charming welcome. 

The Sheroes Cafe—a worthy haven of happiness, matches the Taj Mahal’s grandeur in its own unique way. Your attention will immediately be swayed away by the delicious food, academically poised environment, vibrant color schemes, and 3D wall designs. Most of the cafe’s patrons are tourists who enjoy their time dining and chatting in its fulfilling ambience. 

Unable to digest the gravitas of emotions that he felt within himself, Kuldeep Pant, an enthusiastic member of the team, describes his experience in three words: gratitude, inspiration, and humility. He says, “Their radiant smiles and enthusiasm for independence instilled a rush of self-assurance, vitality, and positive emotions within me. The exceptionally talented children of the survivors deserve special recognition because they awakened my inner child and astounded me with their amazing creative abilities. Whether you enjoy books or art, you could discover that you grow accustomed to the welcoming atmosphere the cafe offers. Sheroes Cafe is looking forward to your visit if you enjoy sharing love and smiles and receiving them in abundance.”

Sheroes Celebrating Freedom and Courage
Picture Credit: Girl Power Talk

For book-lovers, there is also a library with a wide variety of books worthy of checking out, or purchasing and donating. The Cafe’s art exhibit showcases the brilliant and aspirational success stories of its determined and inspiring women. You can also watch the brief documentary presenting a short history of how the cafe and its members came to be creatively”. 

Aashna Duggal, another Young Leader at Girl Power Talk, shared her flipped uncertainty to a change of heart. She quotes, “I was unaware of how it might affect them. Upon my return, I was truly inspired by their experience, optimism, and vitality. What makes Sheroes Cafe special is that they not only make it a delightful place to be, but they also give people employment possibilities that allow them to be comfortable in their own skin, work and earn on their own, and interact with others. Although you can find good cuisine and ambience elsewhere, the vibe there was transcendent. Ecstatic would be a good word to describe my feelings.”

Lastly, how can we forget the cuisine? The scrumptious food was served with a lot of love and smiles. Special mention for the presentation and flair that was admirable and appealingly done. Muskan describes her experience at Sheroes Cafe as beautiful and sweet as it reminded her of her mother’s warmth and nurturing. She says “This was my first meeting with my fellow Girl Power Talk team members and I had only seen acid attack survivors in films and pictures. I was a little worried about how awkward or strange talking to everyone would be, but as soon as I entered the cafe, all of my concerns vanished. I conversed with everyone and listened to their stories. I was a little overwhelmed by talking to them and learning about their stories. Aside from that, the food was excellent because I had been craving home-like food since I stay in a hostel. Last but not least, all the women there had a nurturing, kind, and gentle demeanor similar to my mother’s.” She summed up her experience in one word as being hopeful.

The Future Looks Bright

Sheroes Cafe is shattering significant preconceptions by giving victims of acid attacks multiple reasons to embrace themselves while empowering them to take control of their lives and realize their potential. Pictures, letters, and prizes that hang proudly on their walls, outline the life stories of these women soldiers, encouraging us to recount their experiences and share them further. It was difficult not to be charmed by the hospitality and professionalism at Sheroes Cafe. Many people do not love endings, but it is delightful that this one is only the beginning of learning and friendships.

Conclusion:

In a world where kindness is a rarity, Sheroes cafe is serving as an instrumental case study that is raising eyebrows and forcing people to rethink their ideas of empowerment. The victims of Acid Attack demand opportunities but not sympathy, equality but not indifference. In this fight towards change and acceptance, Sheroes presents a genuine picture when it comes to diversity and inclusion. It reinforces our mentality and makes us question our accountability toward actually supporting the change through our actions.

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