The Pandemic and its Impact on Acid Attack SurvivorsAnamika Dubey
It was in the wake of COVID-19, our self-sustainable cafe model was in crisis for the very first time. The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating: tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty. The pandemic has laid bare the fragility of the Sheroes Hangout Cafe Model, as it shut down, created a job emergency for acid attack survivors and was a wake up call for us an organisation to have an accountable approach towards unrestricted funds that could support us times of distress like these.
In the pandemic as the cafe was shut down for public safety measures, survivors lost an important platform to earn their livelihood. The Sheroes Cafe Model was crafted to be a mode of earning a livelihood to the survivors while providing opportunities to the public to interact with the survivors of acid violence & understand their stigmas who were boycotted by the society for the mistakes which they never committed.
This catastrophe has snatched this vital and the only platform from the small community of acid attack survivors who were already cornered by the society full of taboos. The year 2020 brought an abundance of challenges for the survivors. Since, the pandemic they have been in a quest for their survival, medical needs, employment, social hurdles, and mental wellbeing. They are in an annihilating situation and require our urgent attention.
If it had not been the COVID, Sheroes Hangout would have running its business successfully but presently one of the worst-hit industries by the pandemic is the food and travel industry.
Since the lockdown began, both the outlets of Sheroes Hangout were closed. Some relief came from the Lucknow chapter of the Sheroes Hangout, where after the guidelines from the Government the operations began from 8th June. However, the sales graph dipped distressfully low & below the average and eventually, it is not able to cover the running costs & staff salaries who are working there in these challenging times but yes somewhere it is helping us to regain the lost momentum.
Talking about the Agra chapter, we started its operations in Oct 2020 but it seems very difficult to run the cafe even with the new normal for another 6 months, the reason being Agra is very badly affected with COVID & is among the top affected cities of the state & the other reason being, its business highly depends upon the tourists and there are uncertainties over the travel & tourism culture that previously used to exist. It would not be wrong to say that the cafe business is going to suffer probably for more than one year. But the concern is the closing of operations has not stopped the operational expenses including the rents & staff salaries other than beneficiaries.
COVID-19 not only surfaced as an obstruction in our vital operations but also was a time when survivors needed our support the most. For which, Sheroes became a one-point center as we started our helpline to provide immediate assistance to our present network of survivors and to continue our outreach in the COVID-19 standstill.
Even in these difficult times, we secured the salaries of survivors employed at the cafe and provided immediate monetary aid to those who were in an urgent crisis. Other aids like counseling, mental health session we also provided. Here is the link to the campaign that we specifically ran for this purpose: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-garima-awasthi
AOur Fight for Self-Sustainability: Inception of A Gift Story-A Gift Venture run by Acid Attack Survivors
COVID made us understand the importance and viability of the gift economy and the tied aid system to keep our identity intact for the development and inclusion of acid attack survivors. It was in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, that we realized Sheroes Cafe might not be the answer to all our questions and existential conflicts. Therefore, starting A Gift Story- An Online Gift Venture run by Acid Attack Survivors was an important curve in our trajectory as a non-profit.
We had to address this job emergency brought in the pandemic as for Acid Attack Survivors, earning a livelihood has been ever challenging due to the fear of acceptance in the public spaces and reluctance from the ingrained stereotypes seeded in the survivors.
Our solution was to gradually transform our operation of Sheroes Cafe into a thoughtfully crafted gifting portal called ‘A Gift Story’, to thrive in this crisis.
A Gift Story provides training in the avenues of art & craft, baking, and several entrepreneurial skills required to run and understand a gift venture. They are taught to communicate and channelize their energy into something that empowers them.
Losses Sheroes Hangout Faced
If we talk about the statistical comparison of the last year’s sales figures and this year’s sales are downward poles apart. Collectively, on comparison of sales from April to November of last and this year, Sheroes Hangout suffered losses amounting to nearly 70 percent of losses in total revenues calculation. The total sale of this duration in 2019 was ₹ 61,58,451.00 while that of this year is ₹ 18,49,962.00, a wreching loss of 81%, which is unimaginable at all costs.
The trauma they suffered when they had to go back home during the lockdown?
Though the cafes were closed the organization had put all the efforts to keep them away from the trauma. The major challenges lockdown had brought for them were;
1. Their medical treatments were on hold as a few of them had planned surgeries and routine medical checkups
2. Their training and the skill development classes were stopped but they were provided with those classes through the digital platforms.
3. Since, cafes were closed, their jobs suffered a staggering and a demotivating halt when they needed it the most. While the whole world was shifting to the culture of working from home, acid attack survivors were waiting for the pandemic to be over so that they can return to their jobs
Sharing a list of important crowdfunding campaigns run by us for the cause:
1. Making Survivors Self-Reliant by A Gift Story – https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-ritu-saini
2. Treatment Drive for Urgent Medical Requirements of Survivors – https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-anshu-rajput-1
3. Gathering Survival Funds for Acid Attack Survivors – https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-garima-awasthi