'Be yourself, respect people around you' - My Take by Pragya Singh, acid attack survivor
A young, happily married woman with ambitious plans for the future, Pragya Singh became the target of an acid attack by a rejected suitor. How she coped with the aftermath and went on to become a mentor to other acid attack survivors is a testament to her grit and determination. Hear her story on My Take.
I can never forget the date - 30 April 2006. I was on a train to New Delhi for a job interview. I was a post graduate with plans for the future and newly married. It had been just 10 days since my wedding.
It was night time and I was asleep when someone poured acid on my face. As it turned out it was a relative who was angry as I had rejected his marriage proposal. My life change forever and all he got was four years' imprisonment for this.
A lot of people felt he should have got a much stronger sentence but I honestly did not have the energy to fight the case. All I wanted was to put the past behind and move on.
From Varanasi I moved to Bengaluru where I live now with my family. Here I started Atijeevan Foundation to reach out to acid attack survivors like me. After the acid attack, I was shocked and shattered but I found the support an courage to pick up the broken pieces and start anew. I want to help other acid attack survivors do that and that was the reason I launched this. I had family support that helped overcome the many obstacles in my way but not everyone is so fortunate.
In India, the laws are not strong enough to punish people accused of such crimes. In 2006, when I was targeted, awareness was poor but things have changed since. Survivors now come forward to tell their stories. Those convicted get as much as 10 years in jail. Of course, much depends on the lawyer as well.
One of the aims of my foundation is to push for stringent punishment but we are still fighting. Our core focus is to help survivors with treatment that is free of cost. We then offer vocational training so they are able to stand on their feet. At Atijeevan, we have been focusing on conducting campaigns to create better awareness in the public.
This year is special to me. To begin with, I was awarded with a Nari Shakthi Puraskar on 8 March which adds to my responsibilities towards society. I am glad that Atijeevan is able to lend a helping hand to many acid attack victims, and we are working towards helping more people find jobs. There are many survivors who refuse to come out of their homes as they fear the stigma or are struggling with certain health issues. We try and help such people out by training them in making handicrafts so they can work from home.
I am blessed to have a supportive husband who has stood with me through thick and thin. We have two daughters, who are eight and 10 years old. My first daughter was born three years after I was attacked.
We started a campaign Donate Your Skin six years back here at Atijeevan. This is to create awareness about skin donation as it can give acid attack survivors a new lease of life. We have been conducting workshops regarding this. Many people have come forward as donors and that is good news.
Like this we have many projects planned to empower acid attack survivors. I believe that anything is possible as long as you are yourself, respect people around you, regardless of where they come from.
You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.