Taking a stance against violence and promoting self love is the hottest trend, which brought India an unexpected model.
Laxmi Saa at the age of 26 has become the face for Viva N Diva’s “Face of Courage” campaign. The young woman is an acid attack survivor, and has now stepped up to a new platform to make the epidemic more known.
At the age of 15 Laxmi found herself a victim of a cruel acid attack by an older man and his friend, all because she had refused to marry the man. The attack caused the young girl to go under extensive medical treatment for the severe burns on her face, neck, and arms. The men have been arrested but almost ended Laxmi’s life. Even though she was a victim of a gender violent crime that has been rampant in India for many years, she grew strong post treatment and has become an advocate for the cause. She fights for regulating the sale of high concentration acid and increasing the punishment of the attackers, who at times go free. More people have taken notice of the young woman and the cause she is fighting for, including the fashion industry.
Viva N Diva is a manufacturer of designer saris, elaborate clothes that are native to the subcontinent, based in Surat, India. The co-founder of the company, Rupesh Jhawar got the idea for the campaign after seeing a calendar with acid attack survivors. In that moment he realized beauty comes in many forms and wanted to create a campaign that showed these young women in a strong light, by doing so he takes away the victim aspect and empowers survivors. He then reached out to Laxmi asking her to be the face of the campaign, who accepted the offer. Both Jhawar and Laxmi hope to show survivors that they can live freely and not in fear, but to also show attackers that their acts won’t push women down.
She stated in an interview with Adlands of India, “People often laugh at our looks. Children get scared and call us ghosts. When such initiatives are undertaken, they make people understand that we, too, are like regular women. Although our faces have been ruined, beauty still lies within us”. The executives of the brand agree with her and claim that Laxmi is just the beginning of the campaign, they will be reaching out to many survivors and promoting them. With this the cause is highlighted in public advertisements, but employment opportunities are given to the survivors to show that their life can continue after an attack that is physically and emotionally crippling.
The campaign comes at a time when the country is being rocked by society’s demands for the government to change their policies about the attack. Currently there are no strict laws to handle the attacks that have become so regular they have their own category within crime.
There are a reported 1000 acid attacks annually happening in India, and in 2013 the Supreme Court ordered states to determine regulations for the sale of acid and provide better compensation to the victims. However these attacks cannot be so easily compensated with money considering the damage done to the victims mental health and the societal behavior that harms the women, but with the recent influx of positive beauty campaigns such as Viva N Diva’s change is possible.