NEW DELHI: Brave acid attack survivors in India have taken to the catwalk to raise awareness and improve their self-confidence.
Organized by Make Love Not Scars, The PowerWalk fashion show was held in New Delhi and featured nine women who have been subjected to life-changing assaults.
Around 20 designers from across India donated outfits for the event, which were then auctioned to raise money for the campaign.
Founder Ria Sharma said: “Some of these girls have never been accepted this way, never been pampered, and have never come together just to have some girlie fun. Yes, they’re nervous about being looked at but only because of the way people have treated them in the past.”
“The idea for PowerWalk was to give the girls something to build their confidence. If they can overcome something so daunting as walking down a catwalk in front of loads of people, they can overcome anything.”
Reshma Bano Qureshi, 20, was one of the nine involved and was also invited to star in New York Fashion week last year, just two years after she was attacked by her brother-in-law as he tried to attack his wife and Reshma’s sister.
She said: “I enjoyed my experience on the catwalk so much last year. It’s great that the other girls can experience it now too.”
Miss Sharma first came across acid attack victims in India after she filmed a documentary while studying at Leeds College of Arts.
She said: “While I was studying fashion at the Leeds College of Arts, I came across a picture of an acid attack survivor and it really moved me. I went and spoke to my professor about it. As I was due to give my final major project, my professor suggested that I should go back to India and shoot a documentary on the subject.”
But while filming her documentary she became aware there was a major lack of awareness of acid attacks and a serious lack of help on the ground.
She decided to take the name of her film, Make Love Not Scars, and turn it into a fully-fledged organization. For three years the charity has helped many young women by building their confidence and reintegrating them into society.
Keshav Suri, executive director of the Lalit Group of Hotels family, which hosted the event, is passionate about supporting minority groups in India.
He said: “A friend of mine introduced me to Ria this summer. I’ve been championing the LGBT community for many years and I like to help marginalized communities. There are so many other marginalized communities in India and across the world and I did some research, and something happened, I started to think what have I done? What can the corporate sector do to help? I realized that I needed to do something before I started telling politicians and so forth to do something.
“This community needs skilling. I want to hire them and I will employ them wherever, and in whatever role they’re comfortable with. I will help.
“If I can do something in my privileged life, and I consider myself very privileged, why not? And I want to tell other company owners to stop complaining that there are not enough skilled people, start skilling the marginalized communities and you’ll have loyal workers for life”