ACCOUNTANTS, BEAUTY QUEENS AND BOLLYWOOD
A fundraiser by a local firm of accountants has raised £2,000 for victims of acid attacks.
Elsby & Co of Sywell, Market Harborough and Milton Keynes teamed up with the organisers of Miss Universe Great Britain to arrange the event for Sheroes Hangout - a café in Agra which is run by the Stop Acid Attacks charity.
Carl Elsby, founding partner of Elsby & Co, said: “What is particularly special about Sheroes Hangout is that it doesn’t just give the women jobs, but it teaches them life and business skills so that they can become entrepreneurs of the future. As an organisation that supports business people on a daily basis, this is particularly relevant for us.”
The Accountants, Beauty Queens and Bollywood night took place on Saturday 14 May at Ruby’s Bar in Diana’s Health Club, Wellingborough. A highlight of the party was a solo Bhangra dance by Carl – the video of which has been circulated around social media to encourage people who couldn’t attend to put their hands in their pockets for the charity.
Contributors to the event include Church Footwear which donated a pair of £300 shoes; The Cooking Academy which offered a £150 cooking course; and Diana’s Health Club which gave a number of passes to the club for the raffle.
Carl said: “We are really grateful to everyone who supported in so many ways.”
The event will also form part of a Miss Universe Great Britain documentary which is following the story of modern day beauty queens.
Why Elsby & Co chose to help the Sheroes and to stop acid attacks…
by Carl Elsby
Neetu is a young woman from Agra, Uttar Pradesh, in the north of India. At the age of three, she suffered an acid attack at the hands of her father who came home one night and threw acid on her, her mum and her baby sister. Her baby sister died shortly afterwards as a result of the injuries she sustained.
Neetu and her mum, Geeta, have never received any medical or legal help as a result of what happened to them. The father remains in the family home and has never been charged with any crime.
Neetu has lived with very little vision and has grown up with a completely disfigured face. Mum, Geeta, suffers scars on her face and eyes and also struggles with her vision. She also had to do what no mother should ever have to do – bury her child due to the actions of its father.
While this sounds shocking to us in the UK, the reality is this story is real and a true reflection of parts of Indian society. It shows how many women lack support from their own families – as well as the authorities - when they are abused in a domestic set-up.
Worryingly, acid crime is on the increase in India with more than 300 attacks recorded last year. The likely reason for the rise in numbers is the desire among young women to be more independent and ambitious – ideals which could be argued go against the traditional way of life in India.
Whatever the reasons behind the complexities of acid crime, there can be no argument that it is a hideous abuse of human rights and a tragedy not only for the women and their families but for Indian society as a whole.
Certainly, this was the thinking of a group of friends led by journalist, turned activist, Alok Dixit, who launched a home called ‘Chhanv’ in 2013 to provide shelter for acid attack survivors undergoing medical treatment. It is based in Delhi and is the first rehabilitation centre of its kind in the country.
Chhanv is seen as a ray of hope for all the acid attack fighters who have been struggling with their fate. It is managed by a number of survivors who are undoubtedly a source of inspiration and motivation for many others who are often deserted by both their families and society as a whole.
The centre does more than provide women with shelter during their medical treatment, it also helps them take charge of their lives. It houses training, workshops, counselling and many other programs to support and facilitate the survivors. The thinking behind the activity is to boost the survivors’ self-confidence and to help set them on a path to self-reliance. The plan is that Chhanv will serve as a model for many more support centres which will be established around the country in time.
In addition to Chhanv, the team has launched a chain of cafes called Sheroes Hangout. Currently, three cafes are in operation: one in Agra (near the Taj Mahal - so if you’re visiting make sure you call in); one in Lucknow and most recently one in Udaipur. The cafes provide jobs, purpose and income for acid attack survivors and provide them with an opportunity to engage with the wider public again as part of their rehabilitation in to society. The cafes are recognised as a place of warmth, welcome, feminism, positivity and of course a great cup of masala tea.
On a national level, the Stop Acid Attacks team also lobbies national, regional and local organisations to stop the sale of acid; to campaign for the rights of acid attack victims and to call for tougher treatment of perpetrators. They have many successes to their name including getting acid attacks listed as a most ‘heinous’ crime in Indian law.
Closer to home, you might remember a bit of a do in May at Diana’s Health Club in Wellingborough? We had a curry, a quiz, a fancy dress and I even attempted a bit of a Bhangra dance. It was a good night enjoyed by all.
Some of our special guests that evening included the finalists (and I’m pleased to say the eventual winner) of Miss Universe Great Britain 2016. The competition is run by a friend of mine and is a beauty pageant which doubles as a platform to inspire and empower young women.
It was the Miss Universe Great Britain team who introduced me to Stop Acid Attacks and the Sheroes. They had adopted the charity as a cause to support due to their similar values of supporting young women – albeit in a very different capacity.
It was then down to me (after a glass or two of red wine) to volunteer our fundraiser and believe it or not my Bhangra dance. (They were large glasses!)
When I sobered up I was sorry but a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do and I signed up for said Bhangra lessons. Despite being guilty of what was probably the most embarrassing dad dancing ever (sorry kids!), I was thrilled that we managed to raise about £2,000 for the Sheroes that night thanks to the generosity of Elsby & Co staff, clients, friends and family.
This month, the team from Miss Universe Great Britain visited the Sheroes and Stop Acid Attacks founders in Delhi and Agra. The Indian press turned out in full force to meet the delegation (they love a beauty queen in India) which helped spread the story of acid attack survivors.
Our money will now go towards their very good work and I am humbled that they were so pleased to receive such support from the UK. I am told that the some of the Sheroes even watched the video of my dance – not only did they say I was good, but apparently I also resemble a famous Bollywood actor. I kid you not!
On a serious note, I want to say that at Elsby & Co, we have always supported local charities and will continue to do so. The cause in India is something additional and something special. We are huge advocates of the female force (I only need look around my office) and to help feminism across the world in some small way is a pleasure.
For that reason, the plans are already being put in place for our next Sheroes fundraiser. Thank you for backing us before. I hope you’ll back us again. This time I promise not to dance.