After she was attacked with acid, this 18-year-old became a voice for change.

You may remember Reshma Quereshi from the Make Love Not Scars campaign.

The campaign came from an Indian nonprofit that supports survivors of acid attacks, and I covered it for Upworthy in September.

Quereshi starred in one-minute, lighthearted, cheerful videos offering beauty tips just like any other makeup tutorial. Until, that is, she shared just how easy it is for would-be attackers to procure strong acid in India.


GIFS via Make Love Not Scars/YouTube.

Public Radio International traveled to Mumbai to catch up with Quereshi 18 months after the attack that changed her life.

Since her attack in the spring of 2014, Quereshi has been on a long, difficult road to recovery.

In May 2014, Quereshi was doused with sulphuric acid by her brother-in-law and a group of his friends after her sister decided to leave him. The first hospital she went to turned her away, telling her it was a police matter, not a medical one, a decision that probably cost Quereshi her left eye.

Image via Public Radio International/YouTube.

She underwent multiple skin grafts to repair her face and eye socket and still has many many surgeries to go.

"My head hurts. My scalp hurts. They've taken skin from all over my body to rebuild my face," Quereshi told PRI through a translator.

When she ventures outside, Quereshi feels each and every stare.

The gazes from strangers are cruel and biting. It is torture — much like the lingering pain she feels from the acid attack and subsequent procedures. This unwanted scrutiny and shame were simply insults added to injury.

Image via Public Radio International/YouTube.

But with the help of other survivors and the support of her family, Quereshi is speaking out.

Through her physician, Quereshi met a fellow acid-attack survivor who was in worse shape than she was.

"I look at this girl and looking at her pain and her situation actually took me outside of myself for the first time," she said.

An estimated 1500 acid attacks are recorded each year and 349 in India alone.

There are thousands of women just like Quereshi who are left with physical and emotional scars from these cruel, painful crimes. Many don't leave home, hiding out inside, away from unwanted attention. Meanwhile, perpetrators of acid attacks often go unpunished.

Image via Public Radio International/YouTube.

Though she was hesitant about her appearance, the injustice was too much to bear, and Quereshi decided to speak out.

"These boys, they look at a pretty face and they can't have it, and they throw acid in her face, and they spoil an entire life. And the ones who did this are running around free. [While] we're the ones confined to a room."

Since they debuted, Quereshi's videos garnered over 1.8 million views! And the petition to limit the sale of sulphuric acid in India now boasts more than 273,000 signatures. It's forward momentum, and Quereshi is leading the way.

She's come a long way since the brutal attack, and she looks forward to helping other survivors.

She still gets stares when she leaves her home. But Quereshi's not going to let that stop her from making a difference.

She hopes to continue to be a voice for survivors. The incident forced her to reevaluate what strength and beauty really mean. It's a challenge for anyone in that situation, especially a teenager.

But Quereshi is assertive and she carries herself with a grace and poise generally reserved for someone much older than her 18 years, telling PRI:

"What matters is what's on the inside. What matters is your heart. If you're heart's clean, your face will reflect it in a different way."

Learn more about Qreshi's life since the incident in this stirring video from Public Radio International.

More
True
Gates Foundation


Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Amy Johnson

The first day of school can be both exciting and scary at the same time — especially if it's your first day ever, as was the case for a nervous four-year-old in Wisconsin. But with a little help from a kind bus driver, he was able to get over his fear.

Axel was "super excited" waiting for the bus in Augusta with his mom, Amy Johnson, until it came time to actually get on.

"He was all smiles when he saw me around the corner and I started to slow down and that's when you could see his face start to change," his bus driver, Isabel "Izzy" Lane, told WEAU.

The scared boy wouldn't get on the bus without help from his mom, so she picked him up and carried him aboard, trying to give him a pep talk.

"He started to cling to me and I told him, 'Buddy, you got this and will have so much fun!'" Johnson told Fox 7.

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared