The Center for Rehabilitation of Survivors of Acid and Burns Violence (CERESAV) is a non-governmental organization established in 2012 to address acid violence in Uganda. We work to raise awareness of acid violence in Uganda and internationally, advocate for changes in laws on the sale and distribution of acid, and provide legal and health services to acid violence survivors. CERESAV was founded in 2012 by Hanifa Nakiryowa, a Ugandan acid attack survivor. Orchestrated by her ex-husband, the attack left her with significant facial scarring and loss of vision in one eye. During her recovery in the burns unit at Mulago Hospital, Hanifa met many other women and men who had been disfigured by acid. Moved by their stories, Hanifa felt compelled to bring light to the problem of acid violence and bring hope to survivors suffering in silence.
Our mission is to raise awareness of and prevent acid and burns violence in Uganda, empower survivors by providing them support in their rehabilitation, confidence in their physical appearance, and hope for the future, and collaborate with acid attack rehabilitation centers globally to bring an end to acid violence. Our motto of ‘Unveiling the Scars’ reflects our ethos of encouraging survivors to live boldly and without shame. We believe it is only when survivors display their physical and psychological scars that society will be confronted with the reality of acid violence and fully motivated to act against it.
Hanifa on the founding of CERESAV: The idea of founding CERESAV was based on my personal experience. In 2011, I was attacked by acid after quitting a seven year abusive marriage. The oppression of women and girls in both the traditional and religious society that I come from deprived me of any access to human rights. When I decided to quit the marriage, therefore breaking the silence of and standing for my rights, I was regarded as disobedient. Three months after quitting the marriage, I was attacked with acid at my ex-husband’s home after he invited me to pick up my children. One of my children also sustained burns after falling in the pool of acid on the floor. My experience in the hospital with other victims of acid violence, my encounter with the many acid violence survivors whom I had never come across before, the negative perception, stigma and discrimination I experienced, the trauma I and my two children went through and the devastation that I experienced with the injustices all compelled me to spearhead the campaign against acid attacks and gender violence. CERESAV’s ultimate goal is to address the issue of acid attacks and gender violence on a global level by collaborating with other countries where the problem is pronounced and calling upon general public involvement (educational, medical, non-profit, faith-based institutions) to address the problem. With collective efforts, we can end this devastating act of human terrorism and save the next potential victim.