A beautiful 19-year-old, Reshma Bano from Mumbai, India, was left badly disfigured after saving her sister from a vengeful acid attack by her husband. Badly scarred, Reshma has had to rediscover a new confidence and inner strength. Now, she has gone on to help uplift and inspire women who have suffered the same plight around the world.
Reshma was left depressed, and was contemplating suicide after suffering a devastating acid attack by her brother-in-law. The attack left her face badly scarred, and she was blinded in one eye.
On May 19th, 2014, Reshma was on her way to take an exam, walking with her sister. Reshma’s sister had just left her husband after suffering from abuse and torture. Suddenly, her sister’s husband approached them… and Reshma would suffer the life-changing injuries while trying to protect her sister.
“My brother-in-law was angry that she had taken their son,” explained Reshma. “To take revenge, he came to attack her with acid but before he could, I jumped for her rescue. I did not know he was carrying a corrosive substance. The next thing I knew was that my skin was scalding and I could barely see anything.”
“My sister too had suffered burn injuries on her hand but my face was completely burnt.”
“I had no will to live. The pain was unbearable, the smell was worse. I had to keep my face covered all the time so no one can see me… And then came the day when I first saw my first post-surgery.”
“I fell unconscious. I was a beautiful girl but now all I saw in the mirror was scalded face with one missing eye. I failed to understand why it happened to me.”
“I stopped talking to everyone and drifted into depression. There were times when I used to cry.”
Reshma’s bleak outlook began to turn around however after she met Ria Sharma, the CEO and founder of Make Love Not Scars, a non-government organization dedicated to ending the uncontrolled sale of acidic substances—the kind Reshma’s brother-in-law had used—in India and elsewhere.
Ria also helped Reshma to fund her surgeries, and start on a rehabilitation program. Eventually, she regained her confidence, and found a new perspective on life—that beauty comes from within. Reshma worked with Make Love Not Scars on several ad campaigns to stop the sale of disfiguring acids, and shine a light on women who have suffered a similar plight. She said that she is proud to be able to stand up for women who have been suffering alone.
“I am hoping my participation will give them a confidence that they do not need to hide behind the veils,” she explains.
It was Reshma’s ‘changed persona’ that eventually caught the attention of Ilaria Niccolini, producer of FTL MODA, New York Fashion Week. Reshma was to walk the catwalk as part of a fashion show to shed light on the devastating effects of acid attacks.
“This season I wanted to have Reshma because the plague of abuse of acid to attack women, so largely adopted in India and Pakistan, is devastating,” Niccolini said.
Reshma described her feelings about the show: “I am both ecstatic and nervous. I had never in my wildest dreams thought of going abroad let alone walking at a major fashion show. I am yet to sink in the feeling,” she said, “I do not know about the brand. I do not know what I am going to wear or how I will walk. I am not prepared for all that.”
“I am just happy to have been invited for a big event like this and show the world that beauty lies in the soul and not in looks.”