Inspirational Women

Illamuse – Reshma Qureshi

This month’s Illamuse is the brave and beautiful Reshma Qureshi. Reshma not only challenges ‘typical’ beauty conventions as showcased on the runway at this year’s New York Fashion Week, but is also making it her aim to raise awareness of acid attacks and the ease of purchasing acid in India.

In May 2014, mistaken for her sister, Reshma’s brother-in-law pinned her to the floor and poured concentrated sulphuric acid over her face, assisted by two other male assailants.

At just 17 years old, the devastating aftermath of the attack left Reshma with a severely disfigured face and the loss of her left eye, requiring extensive cosmetic surgery to repair the structure of her face that could be saved.

The consequences of the attack left Reshma feeling worthless… until she met Ria Sharma, the founder of the NGO ‘Make Love Not Scars’ organisation. The duo worked together until Reshma found direction. This is when the award winning #EndAcidSale campaign was born.

‘Make Love Not Scars’ is an organisation that was initially part of a college project and when one thing lead to another, this organisation now provides acid attack survivors with the chance to regain their life with support through recovery, rehabilitation and encouragement of reintegration, on their own terms.

In September 2015, Reshma became the face of the Make Love Not Scars #EndAcidSale campaign. The message behind this campaign is to raise awareness of the terrifying frequency of acid attacks and to emphasise the ease in which the common people of India can find concentrated acid on the market for less than just one pound.

The motive behind the campaign is to implement strict laws to rid India of the frequent, horrific acid attacks and to end acid sales to the general public.

‘I never thought in my wildest dreams that something like this would happen to me – that I would be coming to such a big place to walk on such a big stage.’  Rehsma Qureshi

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The #EndAcidSale campaign consisted of three incredibly empowering YouTube videos to raise awareness of the frequency of acid attacks in India. The satirical YouTube series ‘Beauty Tips with Reshma’ consists of 3 videos and educates us on the horrifying facts about acid sale in India:

  1. How to get perfect red lips: It is more difficult to find the right shade of red lipstick than it is to find acid on the high street in India:
  1. How to apply eyeliner: Anyone can find acid in general stores on the high street in India – and it’s cheaper than eyeliner.
  1. How to get rid of dark spots naturally: You can cover dark spots and pigmentation just as easily as scarring someone for life.

The campaign went viral and was viewed by over 1.3million people.

The petition found here: now has 320,284 signatures. Support this campaign and follow the link to add yet another signature.

Two years on from the attack, the huge success of the Make Love Not Scars campaign drew in the attention of FLT Moda; a colossal part of the fashion production industry, who contacted the organisation to invite Reshma to walk the runway in the 2016 New York Fashion Week for Indian designer Archana Kochhar as part of FLT Moda’s mission to #TakeBeautyBack.

Reshma walked the runway to raise awareness of the tragedies that happen too often with regards to gender-based attacks in India. She believes that this will provide a sense of empowerment and courage to other acid attack survivors as she confidently takes to the NYFW stage, something that she could only have dreamed of.
This month’s Illamuse is the brave and beautiful Reshma Qureshi. Reshma not only challenges ‘typical’ beauty conventions but also is making it her aim to raise awareness of acid attacks and that it’s easier to purchase acid in India than beauty products.






Nadine Bourne

Nadine Bourne

Writer and expert