Agra, home to the majestic Taj Mahal, sees a massive influx of tourists every day. From international travellers to bored Delhi families, Agra tops the list of must-visit destinations.
The next time you visit Agra and Taj Mahal, take a couple of hours and head to Sheroes Hangout. A pay-what-you-want cafe run by acid-attack victims, Sheroes Hangout also doubles up as a rehabilitation centre for other acid-attack survivors.
NGOs Chaanv Foundation and Stop Acid Attack decided to jump in and help these women rehabilitate their lives in a self-sustained way. Rupa and Ritu, the women running the cafe, were viciously attacked by their distant family members in isolated incidents at a young age. Rupa hails from Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh and Ritu from Rohtak, Haryana.
The acid might have disfigured their faces, but even after years of struggle, their spirit remains undiminished. Rupa, the survivor from Haryana, found a penchant for design and decorated the cafe entirely by herself.
Along with Rupa and Ritu, three more women run the cafe and share all responsibilities from cooking and cleaning to managing accounts. When asked about their future at Sheroes Hangout, Rupa and Ritu sound not only optimistic but also relieved,
“Corporate offices don’t want to employ us because of the way we look, working at the Sheroes Hangout makes us feel empowered."
Video credits: ScoopWhoop
The cafe aspires to run on more than just donation. They have opened a reading section as well as a boutique. Rupa showcases some of her designs at Sheroes Hangout, which are often bought by tourists.
"We want to bring an end to this donation system and do not want to continue this for long. So we are trying to open up cafes and boutiques for the survivors as a means of their daily bread. This would also act as rehabilitation for the victims."
After the success of the cafe in Agra, Sheroes Hangout has opened up in Lucknow as well. Working towards providing acid-attack survivors with more than just hope and assurance, the cafe is all set to transform the lives of women in other parts of India. The associated NGOs now want to mobilise funds and open similar cafes across Delhi, Kanpur and Ludhiana as well.