New Delhi: Acid attack survivors face a grim situation when it comes to finding a job as people hesitate to employ them, says campaigner Lakshmi Saa.
Lakshmi, who herself is an acid attack survivor and a campaigner with Stop Acid Attack, said since most of the victims are women, their life is really hard. “The major problem that comes across survivors is that nobody wants to give them a job. And since the victims are mostly girls they become more of a burden as they cannot support their families financially,” she said.
Lakshmi and her husband Alok have started “Sheroes Cafe” – an initiative by Stop Acid Attacks campaign, which provides employment to such people. “The survivors face grim situation wherever they go to ask for jobs. Sheroes is one such project where these survivors have got space to work for themselves and live their life with dignity,” Lakshmi said while speaking at Ericsson to mark Global Diversity Awareness Month.
The activist, who runs ‘NGO Chaanv’, talked about the stigma she faced while applying for jobs despite having degrees in several skill development courses. “I did several skill development courses but when I went asking for job, people said they would be scared of me. So, I thought why not work in a call centre as my face won’t be visible to the clients, but there too I faced rejection. I was told my colleagues will be scared of my looks,” she said.
Journalist-turned-activist, Alok called for a positive environment around survivors, who face discrimination in myriad ways while trying to get back on their feet. When asked whether he has approached companies other than Sheroes to give spaces to survivors to work, he said, “When we started the cafe, the number of survivors who wanted to work were not much because tracing them was difficult. “There is no such data on the number of attack survivors. It was also difficult to reach out to such people because most of these attacks happen in village and remote areas.”
He said after Sheroes, he has witnessed a change in the working environment at different places. “Slowly, I think these stereotypes will be broken with the awareness being created,” said Alok, who has written vigorously to sensitise people about the attacks.
He also called for proper education for those, who face attack at an early age. “It is a grim issue that girls, who have been attacked in their childhood, do not got to school and complete their education because of the stigma, which is automatically attached to them. We need to address this issue seriously so, that most of such girls are educated.”
Lakshmi, who received the international women of courage award in 2014, is one of the first survivors who decided not to hide her face. She recalled the challenges she was met with after taking the decision. “The disturbing part is when you go out with an open face there are lesser than women, who talk bad about you. It was a challenge to uncover my face and fight for my own respect in the society. It is after these campaigns that I started getting love from people and importantly, platforms to speak up against this menace,” she said.