Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sheroes Hangout: Serving Food and Motivating Cities to Take the Cause Further

A cafe can be best known for the kind of food it serves. Good cafes have the potential to turn into landmarks for the cities. Imagine a cafe which apart from serving good food, acts as a centre of activism in a city? A cafe which becomes home for many Acid Attack survivors in a city? A cafe which supports a survivor of the attack to transform into becoming a fighter? Sheroes Hangout does all of this, and much more.

Started by the Stop Acid Attacks campaign, Sheores Hangout has become a cherished idea to take the campaign to a next level. The first Sheroes Hangout has been started in Agra, the city of Taj, just few metres away from the Taj Mahal. “Though it was not intentional to start the Cafe in Agra, but now that we have started it here, we can see the metaphor it draws.” Alok Dixit told me in one of the conversations around this. Alok is founder of the Stop Acid Attacks campaign. Many people come to Agra in looking for the beauty history has left us with. But when they visit Sheores Hangout they realise the ugly presence for the women of this society.

Five Acid Attack fighters work at Sheroes Hangout. They earn a salary which is otherwise very difficult for an Acid Attack survivor. Apart from earning a salary, they interact with people, and in the process reintegrate into the society. At Stop Acid Attack the survivors and fighter do not hide their faces. So people witness the naked reality the moment they order a coffee at Sheroes Hangout.

Apart from hosting a cafe, Sheores Hangout also has a library which has a collection of feminist writings. The idea is that people interact, have good food, and also indulge in good literature to understand the society from a different perspective. Sheroes Hangout also hosts a boutique with dresses designed by Roopa, a Acid Attack fighter who now finds her heart in creating beautiful dresses for others.

“People are visiting the cafe. It is making a space in Agra. But presently it is not being able to make much commercial sense.” informs Alok. The campaigners want to take the brand Sheroes Hangout to other cities as well. Presently, the group is focusing on improving functionality of the cafe in Agra. The next cafe will open in Kanpur, and later in Delhi. But these are distant dreams.

Sheores Hangout has turned out to become the most celebrated idea to support Acid Attack survivors in the country. With plans to take this idea to other cities, the support base for Acid Attack survivors will grow in the region, and thus help in the larger struggle to end the brutal violence against women.

This article was first published on LokMarg on March 19, 2015

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