Depilex Smileagain Foundation is giving hope to acid and burn crimes’ victims to smile and live again by making them productive and self-reliant members of the society
“Imagine a woman with barely any facial features, someone with no eyes, nose, lips, ears and hair. What is her future and what is there for her to live for?” says Masarrat Misbah, a beautician of international fame, philanthropist and one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Pakistan.
Her dream was to rehabilitate the survivors of acid attacks and to restore the confidence of these unfortunate women. To transform her desire into reality she envisioned an organisation in 2003, and eventually established the Depilex Smileagain Foundation (DSF) in 2005.
The Depilex Smileagain Foundation is a charitable non-profit organisation helping acid and other burn victims. The mission statement of this noble organisation reflects the righteous objective behind its foundation wholly. It says that DSF is committed to help female survivors and victims of acid and kerosene oil burns in Pakistan by providing them appropriate medical attention and reconstructive surgery, psychological and psychiatric help along with shelter and vocational training. It also aims to create social awareness and sensitivity to eventually accomplish its ultimate goal that is the complete eradication of this heinous crime.
The determination of DSF – to make these sufferers smile again can be gauged from the fact that itfollows the news broadcast and newspapers itself to track the acid attack cases in the country. From registration to surgery, DSF takes full responsibility for each case along with the total expenditure.
The restoration of lives of acid and kerosene crimes’ victims is a long journey. Generally this starts with a reconstructive surgery. For this, teams of surgeons from UK, USA, France and Italy visit Pakistan on a regular basis. DSF has also put together a team of local surgeons through the Ministry of Health to carry out post-operative procedures. However, the severe and complicated burn cases are sent abroad for subsequent treatment. In the first phase these surgeons endeavour to restore victims’ sight, and facial features. It is a very lengthy process and requires 25 to 30 surgical operations over a period of time.
The second phase includes the rehabilitation and vocational training of these survivors. The target is to make them self-reliant and financially stable. So far DSF has more than 455 registered victims, of which a majority has already undergone reconstructive surgery, and has been provided with vocational trainings and financial assistance. Due to this, many survivors are now employed in different sectors and working as nurses, beauticians, call operators etc. Also, a few survivors have been married and are leading happy lives.
Another important objective of DSF is ‘to provide an impetus to the government to formulate, implement and enforce legislation against domestic violence and acid burn crime.’ This organisation deserves an accolade for not limiting its aims to a sheer piece of paper, rather they do their utmost to accomplish them. President DSF Masarrat Misbah was invited to address the Parliamentary Caucus by the Speaker National Assembly, Dr. Fehmida Mirza. She utilised this opportunity to highlight the need to formulate a strong and stringent law to curb domestic violence and acid crimes. As a result of this effort, a bill was passed in December 2011 by the Senate to draft a new legislation to eradicate domestic violence as well as acid and burn crimes.
Furthermore, the aims and objectives of DSF also include educating the public about violence against women with emphasis on acid and kerosene burn victims. In order to achieve this target, a campaign has been initiated on electronic and print media to create awareness among masses about acid and burn crimes. Besides this, seminars, lectures and presentations are regularly conducted to promote the cause of the foundation. A pledge by Oxfam International to support DSF’s violence against women awareness and prevention campaign in Layyah, Punjab is an evidence of progress on this front.
Moreover, DSF believes in cooperation and coordination. Over a period of time it has affiliated itself with various other organisations to spread its noble cause as far as possible. The organisations with which DSF is affiliated include Ministry of Health (extending support for surgery through allied hospitals), Civil and Military Hospital, Rawalpindi; Indus Hospital, Karachi; Fatima Memorial Hospital, Lahore; Depilex Beauty Clinic and Institute (30 branches and franchises in Pakistan), Macter International Ltd. (pharmaceutical company), friends of Depilex Smileagain Foundation Pakistan, philanthropists and general public contributing donations, multinational and local companies of Pakistan (KFC, Coca Cola, etc) and university and college students for advocacy campaign.
DSF has also given technical assistance with the support of its Italian team to Allama Iqbal Hospital and Jinnah Hospital to set up a ‘Burn and Re-constructive Surgery Centre’. In collaboration with MDM (a French NGO) it provided free reconstructive surgery to survivors at Family Health Hospital, Islamabad.
In order to comprehend and appreciate fully the efforts of DSF it is imperative to look at its success stories. Today there are many acid victims whose lives have been brought back to normal. Not only are they given appropriate medical treatment but also a lot has been done to make them a significant memberof our society.
• Tahira Basheer was a worker in a Karachi factory. There, one of her colleagues developed a liking for her and asked her to marry him. Tahira, who was not amenable to this, refused his proposal. This infuriated him to the extent that he threw acid on Tahira, severely damaging her face, an eye, hand and arm. After the tragic incident DSF took the responsibility of her treatment. In addition to many surgeries, the Depilex Beauty Institute also trained her as a beautician. Today Tahira works as a beautician from her home and is still under treatment.
• Sabra Sultana is 27-year-old and lives in Jhelum. She has been with DSF for the last six years as a brave survivor of brutal acid assault. With the assistance and support of DSF she has not only gone through 30 surgical procedures but has also assumed the responsibilities of a patient coordinator. She is still sometimes nostalgic about her youthful and vibrant days. She was married at an early age of 14 to a person much older than her. Her spouse was illiterate and had an ordinary appearance. He became envious of Sabra’s young age and charming youth and eventually became suspicious of her character and started torturing her physically. Besides this he also demanded more money and dowry from Sabra’s family. She was not allowed to interact with her friends, family members and neighbours. On one unfortunate morning despite permitting her to visit her family, he inhumanly dragged her back to home, poured kerosene oil on her and set her on fire. Sabra did not only lose her beauty, but also a child as she was expecting at the time of the incident.
• Kanwal Qayyum’s only fault was that she dreamt of earning a better future for herself and her family. To make her dream come true, she worked hard and along with executing her responsibilities as a housewife as well as a mother, she started to get training as an air hostess. But the night before she was to join an airline, her husband mercilessly threw acid on her and mutilated those lovely eyes which had treasured the dream of a better tomorrow. Kanwal has undergone a number of reconstructive surgeries over a period of three years, restoring the bare essentials of her features. Kanwal has courageously found the will to live and face life once again. Though not fully recovered, she is taking a number of beautician courses and undergoing psychological treatment as she has not given up on her hopes.
• Life was a happy cheerful affair for 17 years old Shamim Akhtar, a resident of Jhelum. One day a group of young boys from her own neighbourhood started to harass her. She scolded them a number of times to leave her alone but they took her rebuff as an insult. On that fateful day when she was walking back to her house, she was kidnapped by this unruly gang who not only brutally raped her, but also threw acid all over on almost unconscious Shamim before throwing her outside her home. “I know I have survived the worst of it all, but I think for as long as I live, I will not be able to forget the look that boy had as he threw acid on me; it was a strange barbaric look, a self satisfactory, taunting look, as if he was telling me, see, I have got what I wanted, I have ruined you!” said Shamim. After undergoing a series of reconstructive surgeries and psychiatric therapy, today Shamim works in Depilex, is happily married and a mother of a lovely daughter. Shamim feels as if she has been blessed with a new life and it is all because of Depilex Smileagain Foundation.
• Yasmeen Nadeem lives in Karachi and is a mother of three children. She was living a miserable life as her husband was unemployed and psychologically challenged. As she was subjected to extreme physical and mental torture, she ended her marriage. She then became a matchmaker and started to arrange weddings. This made her earn enough to support her children. One day when she was returning home from work with her son, her ex-husband blocked her way and demanded money. On her refusal he took out a bottle of acid from his pocket and threw it on her face. This not only affected a part of Yasmeen’s face, but also injured her son. Narrating her story Yasmeen cries, not for her own agony, but for her child who was also hurt during this tragic incident. DSF arranged for the surgeries and medical treatment for both Yasmeen and her son. DSF also provided her shelter and arranged a job for her in Macter Pharmaceutical Karachi, where she is happily working as a kitchen supervisor and feels proud andelevated when her colleagues call her ‘madam.’ Yasmeen is working hard to ensure a better future for her children, who are all currently studying.
• A beautiful young girl, Kanwal Yousuf was happily working in Karachi at an in-house beauty parlour established by her own mother. She had big dreams and aspired to become a model. During that time a young boy became interested in her and began teasing and chasing her. Despite the fact that she never showed interest in him, he kept on following her. One fatal day, expecting a client at the door, Kanwal instead found that boy with a bottle of acid in his pocket. In a matter of seconds he threw the liquid on her face. By the grace of God, her eyes and eyesight were saved although her face and eyes were so swollen that for many months she could not open her eyes and remained unconscious in the hospital. Eventually her family got in touch with DSF and a series of surgeries were arranged. Kanwal is now taking advanced beauty courses as vocational training from Depilex Smileagain Karachi. She is also happily engaged.
After making difference in so many lives and bringing back smile on the faces from which they were unfairly taken away, DSF is now planning to institutionalise the much needed support for the victims of domestic violence. It intends to set up a specialised burns’ hospital, a vocational training center, a shelter and rehabilitation center and a strong advocacy campaign for strict implementation and compliance of laws related to domestic violence, and acid and burn crimes.
The President of DSF Masarrat Misbah also wants to enlist youth in her campaign to root out domestic violence, and acid and burn crimes. According to her, youth are the leaders of tomorrow and education is the key to success. The educated youth with a positive mindset can bring a healthy change and set aside the deeply rooted social menaces. Gender based domestic violence has grown over the last decade, and there is now widespread recognition that this is a global human rights problem requiring a comprehensive and coordinated response from civil society, the state and the international community.
On the whole the Depilex Smileagain Foundation is that much needed light at the end of tunnel which one needs to see in order to hope again. A person is shattered completely when he/she is robbed of his/her prime identity – the face. The meticulous and selfless work to bring back a smile to those victims, who consider survival a fate worse than death, deserves more than just being acknowledged and esteemed. DSF is a charitable organisation and by contributing to its noble cause is in words of Masarrat Misbah – a way of thanking God for everything we have today.
Masarrat Misbah In A Nutshell
Masarrat Misbah has a dynamic persona with multiple talents and is a name that needs no introduction. She is a distinguished entrepreneur, cosmetologist and philanthropist. As a beautician, she is Pakistan’s first beauty expert, who initiated the trend of professional beauty salons in the country. Her charismatic and promising personality reflects vividly her love for beauty. She deserves admiration for her empathy forthose who have accidentally lost it.
Masarrat was born on November 25, 1959 in Karachi. Her father Mr. Misbah Uddin Khan is a business tycoon and her mother Ms. Anisa is a social worker, philanthropist and a prominent personality of Karachi. Masarrat spent early years of her life in Karachi. Being the eldest daughter amongst six sisters and two brothers, she was raised and treated as a totally independent individual since her childhood.
Initially Masarrat committed herself fully to help women look beautiful and quickly ascended the ladder of success as a beautician. But something deep inside always reminded her that this was not the ultimate goal she wanted to achieve. Even though she belongs to an affluent family and has always enjoyed a luxurious life, she was constantly thoughtful of the plight of the women who had lost their charm in acid attacks and burning incidents.
With a strong desire to make a meaningful contribution and a will to bring about a positive change in the lives of those who had suffered due to atrocities of deliberate burning, she decided to establish an NGO and eventually laid the basis of Depilex Smileagain Foundation in 2005. Though she is extremely successful in the realms of business and cosmetology, her noble cause to help and rehabilitate acid and burn crimes’ victims has transformed her into a philanthropist who is envied by many.
For her valuable contributions in various fields of life, Masarrat Misbah is the recipient of several prestigious awards. As the President of Depilex Smileagain Foundation, she is the first woman from Pakistan who has been awarded by the Italian Government on Women’s Day for her courage and commitment. Within Pakistan, for her untiring efforts as a beautician, entrepreneur, social worker and philanthropist she has received several exalted awards. In April 2010, she was also honoured with the Presidential Award for Pride of Performance.
Apart from that, Masarrat Misbah had also been invited as a valued guest to deliver various lectures on beauty, philanthropy and social work at multiple universities nationwide.