Twelve years ago Pragya Prasoon, who was 23 then, suffered one of worst nightmare a woman dreads - acid attack.
"My life completely changed and I was rejected at every interview because of my face. The situation was so bad that despite my MBA degree, I wanted to get any kind of job," said Pragya (35), recounting her ordeal.
"The attack not just changes your outlook on life, but also your appearance, skin health and eyes become your biggest concern. It was difficult to know about the right doctor for the right kind of treatment," she said.
This journey into it made her research intensively about treatment options, plastic surgery and other non-invasive procedures. "This research made me start an NGO called the Atijeevan Foundation, where victims of all kinds of violence, not just acid attack, who need rehabilitation get help in terms of getting the right doctors, surgery and also starting a new life," she said.
Since then she has been waging an endless battle with surgeries, medicines and society. “Our primary aim is to help them in this lifelong battle, we hope to do the same by supporting their rehabilitation physically, mentally and economically. In layman’s language, getting funds for surgeries, medicines or providing them with employment, whatever is required,” she said.
Her NGO has rehabilitated more than 250 acid attack victims. "It is not just sponsoring for the treatments and surgeries, but also helping them with job opportunities and training them to live life independently," she said.
Her team has conducted workshops which help them design handicrafts and goods after which they also open stalls at various places in order to help them sell the products.
"With the right kind of surgeries and treatment the healing time is reduced drastically, but because of lack of awareness these victims, despite paying through their nose, have to wait for a longer time for the wounds and scars to heal," Pragya added.
Her team however first assesses the treatment that the victim requires and their financial status. "Only those who cannot afford are sponsored by us so we do assess their situation before sponsoring their operations and surgeries and other procedures," she added.
"Most of the acid attack victims, however, are from underprivileged backgrounds and desperately need help. The cost is huge and would drill a hole in anyone's pocket," she observed.
Skin donation a boon for survivors
In addition, her team is also mooting for skin donation by conducting workshops across cities. "Skin donation is a boon for acid attack and burn survivors, but unfortunately not many know about it and nor do we have good infrastructure in the country to facilitate skin donation. In order to create awareness on the topic Atijeevan conducted an awareness workshop in various cities," she stressed.