This Women’s Day will witness the launch of a ground-breaking fashion calendar featuring not models or actors but acid attack survivors. Eleven women have overcome their ultimate fear to be the subjects of portraits that make up the fashion calendar — Bello (Italian for courage and inner beauty).
The photo shoot has been conducted by three renowned photographers: filmmaker Rahul Saharan, Belgium-based Passcal Mannaerts and Surabhi Jaiswal. The calendar is being launched by Stop Acid Attacks, an organisation working for rehabilitation of acid attack survivors, whose founder says that the project is an attempt to improve the confidence of these women.
“Due to the nature of their injuries, the survivors feel that it is impossible to live with dignity but by presenting this first ever photo shoot, we want to make a difference. The plan is to re-integrate them into the society and bring back their confidence,” said Ashish Shukla, founder of Stop Acid Attacks.
The calendar, which will be released on March 8, depicts the survivors in the professions they wanted to be in before their horrific attacks. For instance Rupa, a survivor has designed the clothes for all of the models as she wanted to be an apparel designer while Rajwant Kaur, a survivor from Ludhiana, is shown as a photojournalist, something she had aspired to be while Dolly is depicted as a doctor and Gita as a chef.
“Who can think of ugly faces like acid attack victims as that of models. At least not in India where pretty, slim and beautiful women are considered perfect marriage material. I used to call myself as a victim before getting associated with Stop Acid Attacks. Now it has changed me to a survivor. Seeing my face on a calendar was like a dream,” said Rajwant Kaur from Ludhiana. Shukla says that the proceeds from the sale of the calendar will be used for rehabilitation of acid attack survivors.
“We have also launched it as a fund raising campaign and we request people to log on to www.funddreamsindia.com and select Bello-Women’s Day calendar and donate. There cannot be a better Women’s Day gift for your mothers, wives, sisters as this calendar aims at placing acid attack survivors on a par with other women in society,” Shukla added.
His organisation also runs a book-cafe-cum-eatery named ‘Sheroes’ that is managed by acid attack survivors in Agra. Stop Acid Attacks has now begun the process to create a database of acid attack victims in the country.
“It is the India’s first reach-out mission where we aim to document at least 300 acid attack survivors. We do not like calling them victims as they are survivors. Registration has already started,” Shukla said.
As for the photographers, Mannaerts is currently working with asylum seekers in Belgium and had come to India to help with the photo-shoot. Surabhi has worked on various projects for Gujarat tourism, and Cadbury. The calendar can also be viewed and bought on www.paltan.in.