Zainab; a Symbol of Courage
By Sana Masood

December 15, 2009

Zainab, who belongs to Lodhran, Punjab, twice became a victim of a brutal acid attack in 2003 when she was only 13. She was the youngest of her siblings and her father was a labourer earning on daily wages. She was attacked by Javed, who lived in her neighbourhood and wanted to marry her, and often used to psychologically harass her in this context. Upon refusal of the marriage proposal by Zainab and her family, Javed threw acid on Zainab’s face, which damaged her right eye and the right side of her face. She was treated at different local hospitals near her village after which her eyesight returned. Her family reported the case to the village elders and the boy was reprimanded. The following year again Javed threw acid on her face and this time her right eye was badly damaged and the right side of her face was completely burnt. She was taken to the nearest hospital by her parents for the medical treatment.

Due to lack of resources as her family was extremely poor and could only gather enough funds for her medical treatment, Zainab’s family did not file a law suit against the perpetrator and instead opted to resort to an out of court settlement as per the direction of the village elders. Javed and his family were asked to leave the village by the village head and they were also liable to pay Rs. 30, 000 to victim as compensation money.

Zainab had undergone various medical treatments but not a proper surgery to treat her burns, therefore in January 2008, she was referred to Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), by the field officer of the organization, for an intensive medical treatment which included reconstructive surgeries, laser treatments, physiotherapy and psychotherapy. This kind of treatment not only helped to treat her burns but also enabled Zainab to be psychologically more stable and confident.

Even though initially her thoughts substantially revolved around the way she looked, but with time she started taking interest in the daily activities of life. She started performing all her daily chores independently both at the Nursing Care and Rehabilitation Unit (NCRU) of ASF and at her house back in village and can cook, clean, wash dishes and iron clothes without help or supervision. She also started interacting with other acid burn survivors receiving treatment at the NCRU which induced hope in her to fight and rebuild her life, and encouraged her to be more open and interactive about her feelings. In fact now she has made a number of friends at the NCRU and also actively participates in psychological counseling of other acid burn survivors wherever required.

Under ASF’s socio-economic rehabilitation program she was also enrolled in a three month’s Cutting & Stitching Course at the Pakistan Air Force Wives Association (PAFWA) where she learnt the basics of stitching and she plans to utilize these skills in future by making clothes for women and children of her village. She is also interested in embroidery but because her right eye has been adversely affected by acid she finds difficulty in concentrating for a longer period of time.

Now after a year of receiving effective and thorough psychological treatment at ASF-Pak, Zainab has become more ambitious and wants to complete her studies as she has only studied till class 4. She wants to support her family back home as her father and brother are the only breadwinners, and she would like to contribute to the daily household expenditure. She has also overcome her fear of meeting new people and eagerly participated in the tour to Bangladesh where she interacted with acid burn survivors from across the subcontinent. After this tour she also consented to be a part of ASF’s documentary on Acid Violence Awareness to be a source of hope for other acid victims and to show how an acid violence survivor can change a difficult situation into an opportunity to grow and evolve into someone stronger, more compassionate and determined to take their life in a positive direction and progress for a better tomorrow.

Source; Acid Survivors Foundation, Pakistan.

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