Sheroes Hangout Cafe: A tribute to the resilience of acid attack survivors

You must have seen several cafes in Delhi NCR; treated yourself to some good food there, and even enjoyed its ambience. Someone chased their dreams to set up a cafe, someone got their famous food to make the cafe popular, while some cafes are known for their appealing interiors. But along comes something different in Noida – beyond food and ambience – a cafe founded on the unwavering spirit of those who run it.

The newly opened Sheroes Hangout Cafe in Noida’s Sector 21A is set up and run by people that society is yet to fully embrace – the survivors of acid attack.

In India, more than 100 cases of acid attack are reported evey year. Young girls get acid splashed in their face in an act of revenge or jealousy so as to punish them by socially isolating them in their self-imposed confines as they could not see their faces in the mirrors for months and years after the attack, let alone go out and meet people.

Sheroes Hangout Cafe is the the first cafe in Delhi NCR to be run by acid attack survivors – all females. This cafe has been christened ‘Sheroes’ to hounour the survivors – as She-Heros – who instead of hiding their faces, faced their truth and are working hard to live respectably, doing their jobs and running their households.

Shereo’s Cafe came up first in Agra in 2014, and then in Lucknow in 2016 before coming to Noida in 2022. Seven women from different parts of the country run the cafe in Noida. This includes Ritu, a resident of Rohtak, Haryana, who was attacked on May 26, 2012. Nagma is a resident of Balrampur in UP; she was attacked on June 6, 2014. Manini, who hails from Orissa, was attacked in 2016. Ruha of UP’s Muzaffarnagar was attacked in 2008. Along with this, Mausami of West Bengal whose face had completely deteriorated in 2019, is also with them. Seema of Akbarpur in UP, was attacked in 2016.

These women said that earlier, they used to feel very strange about their face, about going in front of anyone, and that it was a compulsion to always keep under cover. But now they have accepted their face. These girls say that they are getting a lot of appreciation from people, they are motivating them, and now, “We can prove to be helpful for more girls like us.”

An organisation named Chhaon Foundation supported them and helped them re-establish themselves in the society. There are more than 35 acid attack survivors working here, including those of Sheroes Cafes in Agra, Lucknow and Noida. They also seek to send out the message of resilience to the criminals who attacked them.

With grit and perseverence, they are claiming their places in society.

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