How Shah Rukh Khan's Meer Foundation is Empowering Acid Attack Survivors & Giving Them a New Lease of Life

Not many are aware, but apart from being the heartthrob of the nation, Shah Rukh Khan also runs a foundation for the acid attack survivors- Meer Foundation. It is a philanthropic foundation named after Shah Rukh Khan’s late father, Meer Taj Mohammed Khan. The NGO aims to effect change at ground level and works to build a world that empowers women. One of the key focus areas under women empowerment has been to support the cause of acid attack survivors.
Meer Foundation has been established with a singular vision, which is to influence and enable a new mindset that embraces equality and does not fear it; one that gives women the power and freedom to live their lives their way. Their mission is to protect and empower women, foster humility and gallantry among men, and fuel the bravery and optimism.

And to know more about their noble cause, we spoke to Geetika Hazari, Head CSR at Meer Foundation. Geetika spoke to us about their various on field projects, why this specific cause was chosen and more.

Please tell us how the Foundation is working with the Government to regulate the sale of acid at over the shelf counters.

We have partnered with organisations in the past such as Make Love Not Scars on campaigns to end the sale of acid and Human Rights Law Network to help survivors avail compensation and free treatment from the Government. We are currently in the process of conducting a survey that will help survivors with vocational and skill training as well as a policy document that can be submitted to the Government that will help them gain employment.

In centre: Geetika hazari

Could you tell us about the various functions of the organisation- on-field projects, knowledge-sharing initiatives and campaigns, awareness models etc.

  • The Foundation provides support to women victims of acid attacks and major burn injuries through a 360-degree approach that helps them with their medical treatment, legal aid, vocational training as well as rehabilitation and livelihood support.

  • Furthermore, we also have key partnerships in place that help provide support for acid attack survivors, including hospitals which provide free/ subsidised treatment, and with corporates for job placements.

  • We are also involved in the policy development for the vocational and skill training for acid attack survivors. There are campaigns, events and programmes to create awareness of the same. We also conduct camps for surgical treatment and mental health counselling and have an information portal to assist acid attack survivors through our Meer Foundation website.

And why was the cause of acid attack survivors chosen?

Mr. Khan has always felt passionate about women empowerment and he deeply empathizes with the plight of acid attack survivors. In fact, it is his conviction towards women’s rights that compels him to act – especially on learning about atrocities like acid attacks. When faced with the violence of this nature, women need a friend – someone they can rely on, who can help them face these hurdles and come out stronger, Mr Khan believes, Meer is that friend.

Could you please tell us a bit about the process of how the foundation helps the survivors- legal services, medical aid etc.

We work with many partners like hospitals, organizations and volunteers across the country to help the survivors based on their needs. Either survivor get in touch with us directly and we connect them to a local volunteer/organization or they connect with the volunteer directly, who gets an understanding of their requirement, informs us on the details regarding their medical treatment, counselling, legal help or vocational/skill training. Our website also provides access to the National and State Guidelines on the procedures that have to be followed by the survivors of acid attack and their families in order to get them swift justice and compensation that they are entitled to.

Please tell us about the impact the Meer Foundation has created so far.

Image source: Times Now

We have conducted surgical camps in Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, Kolkata and Chennai where over 250 surgeries have been performed on burns and acid attack patients. Meer Foundation has over time built an extensive database of over 700 cases to better understand acid violence from a statistical and geographical aspect as well as to reach out to the victims effectively and consistently. Apart from helping the cause of acid attack survivors, Meer Foundation, collaborated with partners to provide relief during the on-going pandemic and help raise awareness about COVID-19, encouraging more people to come forward and help. Following initiatives were undertaken in an effort to ensure that the basic necessities reach many who are being deprived of it in these trying times.

Support for acid attack survivors: Meer Foundation provided a monthly stipend to over 100 acid attack survivors which would take care of their basic needs. The survivors identified were across UP, Delhi, Bihar, West Bengal and Uttarakhand

Ek Saath – The Earth foundation: Meer Foundation along with Ek Saath, provided daily food requirements to over 5500 families for atleast a month in Mumbai. A kitchen was set-up to send out 2000 freshly cooked meals every day to help households and hospitals whose daily needs aren’t being fulfilled

Roti Foundation: founded by Former Director General of Police, Maharashtra, Mr. D. Sivanandhan. Meer Foundation In association with Roti Foundation is providing 3 lakh meal kits with 10,000 people per day for atleast a month

Working People’s Charter: Meer Foundation in association with them provided basic essentials and grocery items for at least a month to over 2500 daily wage workers who have been identified across Delhi

PPE Kits: Meer Foundation extended itself to help front line workers during the CO-VID pandemic. Supporting and protecting the health care workers is of paramount importance as they are the real heroes who put their lives on the line every day to protect us. KKR (Kolkata Knight Riders) & Meer Foundation worked with the West Bengal and the Maharashtra governments to contribute 50,000 PPE kits.

Any particular success story of a survivor you can share with us?

There have been many success stories, all equally inspirational and touching, but the one that comes to mind is of Anupama. When she was just 13, a stalker, 12 years Anupama’s senior, would follow her sister and her around, often throwing things at them to catch their attention, Fed up of his constant harassment, Anupama complained to her family – and her brother went over to the man’s house to insist that he stop. Unfortunately, this was a catalyst to something much worse. It made the man so angry that he snuck into the sisters’ house one evening, and threw acid at the two of them. Anupama bore the brunt of the attack, while her sister escaped with burns to her stomach. Sadly, Anupama’s face, chest, and arms were disfigured beyond recognition. Today, even though the scars stay, Anupama has overcome the trauma successfully and is financially independent, she has completed a beautician’s course and recently gotten married to the love of her life. Her spirit for life is amazing and she inspires many as nothing stopped her from living her life.