Surrounded by the dusty roads and hustle-bustle of the city, stands a cafe which speaks the voices of many women who were once attacked with acids and their voices were tried to be suppressed. Many people told me about Sheroes Hangout Agra and asked me to visit. However I didn’t get to visit this café during my last visit and this time on my visit in February, this place was marked on the list. If you too are planning to visit Agra, make sure you don’t miss this place. The café is unique and stands apart from other cafes that you will visit in the city. Agra is famous for several things, for its culture, for the Medieval Mughal monuments, and the recent addition to the list is this café which is run by acid attack survivors.
This is so unfortunate that someone had to go through such pain and suffering. I wish this happens to no one anywhere. Everyone has the right to live and pursue happiness. The stories of these survivors at Sheroes Hangout Agra will melt your heart and will make you think that such things exist in society. Trust me, the smile and confidence on their faces will surely boost you up with positivity and you will surely salute their spirits and outlook towards life. Sheroes was the second place on the list. Before this, we (I and my friend, Anupam) had visited Deviram Sweets for breakfast.
Sheroes Hangout Agra is an initiative by Stop Acid Attacks to empower survivors
Opened in 2014 by Alok Dixit, Sheroes Hangout Agra is an initiative by a nonprofit organization, Stop Acid Attacks. After Agra, the café also opened another branch at Lucknow. The idea was to provide a platform for the survivors so that they can live a respectful life in society and can make their life better and stronger. By opening the café, not only the organization has empowered these survivors but also has sent a message to the society and created awareness against acid attacks that had spoiled the life of many women who are working here.
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They smile with the scars on their faces and body. But that didn’t stop them and they came forward, took a stand, and now are working who were once despised and neglected. There is a timeline on one of the walls of the café which mentions the number of acid attacks per year. The objective is to zero down the numbers so that this heinous crime can be stopped.
Before working at Sheroes Hangout Agra, most of the women were living an isolated life with trauma and humiliation. It has been reported that most of them were either attacked by their relatives or people they knew already. Also, they were attacked for declining sexual favors and marriage proposals.
The café was started as Pay what you want model
Sheroes Hangout Agra was initially started as a pay what you want model where the menu had no price list for anything you order. You could pay anything by your desire. When it was opened, the employees weren’t aware of this business and that’s why they opted to operate without any fixed price. However, after 2020, they have started a fixed menu model where the menu has a fixed price list for the order.
The café is beautifully decorated with wall paintings, murals, and arts. There is a big LED which plays a documentary based on the life of these warriors. The café is visited by both locals and foreign tourists. You can sit here, relax, read books, talk with the employees, get clicked, and buy merchandise of Sheroes Hangout Agra.
Then survivors, now warriors
There was a time when these women were struggling to be accepted by society. Due to their conditions and physical appearance, they failed to get any job and were unable to secure their future. Stepping forward over the horrific memories and incidents of their lives, the women at Sheroes are now an inspiration. Since they are working at Sheroes, not only they are living a life with pride but many of them are now chief earners of their families. Another similar project was also started in Varanasi as Orange Café.