By Lamya Ibrahim:
At the stroke of noon, April 10, 2015, the ‘Donate a Face’ campaign was launched across various social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, aiming to spread awareness and raise funds for acid attack victims across the country. Headlined by an organization with its roots in an online movement, Stop Acid Attacks has more than 6 lakh followers on its Facebook page and aims to spread knowledge and raise funds for survivors of this violent crime. Launched in collaboration with Cheil India, ‘Donate a Face’ encourages supporters to post a selfie with their face covered by a plain, white sheet with the URL ‘donateaface.org’ scrawled across it.
The patriarchy that is deeply ingrained in our Indian culture makes these crimes not only possible, but in many cases, non-prosecutable as well, with scarred survivors often driven into silent suffering instead of being provided with justice.
‘In more than 70 per cent of the cases I’ve seen, acid attacks are a result of one-sided love. We must request the youth to change their mindset and to be able to accept a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as it comes. Many of us may have acid in our minds, but it is when it is thrown out of our minds and onto their faces that there is a problem’, says Anurag, a campaigner and social media representative for Stop Acid Attacks.
It is a shame that when these incidents happen, they aren’t swiftly acted upon, and the measly compensation provided by the Government to survivors only adds insult to injury. The Rs. 3 Lakhs allotted per person can hardly cover a single surgery of facial reconstruction, whereas each of them would require an average of 6-8 operations to overcome the disfigurement. Depending on the degree of burns and other complications such as blindness, the entire treatment is a highly time-consuming process and would require an estimated Rs.20 – 30 Lakhs.
‘We are an organization that does not receive any funds from the Government and depend entirely on crowdsourcing for funds. People are encouraged to donate their time, if possible, or donate cash online or offline for the rehabilitation of these survivors,’ says Anurag.
‘Donate a face’ strives to alleviate their suffering by providing funds for covering the medical expenses. Hoping to emulate the success behind last year’s Ice Bucket Challenge, the organizers appeal to the public to post the ‘faceless selfies’ on their social media profiles and tag the photo with the hashtag #DonateAFace, to broaden its outreach. Combining the viral nature of such posts with people’s love for selfies, the organizers hope to create an iconic drive that would propel the reinstatement of the survivors quicker.
While the psychological scars may never fade, let’s hope the money and awareness raised through this innovative battle would be able to transform the lives of many more.