“Masks of Courage: Defining True Identity”
Spring | Summer 2016
A moving tribute to the courage to overcome, and a wakeup call to the prevalence of all forms of violence against women.
Masks of Courage begins with one young victim, Natalia Ponce de León, and her courageous journey to heal her scars from a violent acid attack. Today, Natalia is fighting for policy changes and aiding survivors globally. Natalia and her supporters have also designed an art exhibition that uncovers the reality acid attack victims’ experience, and the power of inclusion in their recovery.
(View exhibition dates and details at the bottom of the article and register for our special panel night)
Even as women across the globe make great strides forward in gender equality in education, health and politics, there is a paradoxical reality.
The rise of violence against women and girls “persists at alarmingly high levels,” stated Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the General Assembly at a United Nations Conference in March of 2015.
Rape, murder and sexual harassment rates are stubbornly high for both rich and poor countries with violence against young girls and women in the developing worlds reaching extremes. Among the most alarming threats is that of acid attack. Natalia Ponce de León, a victim of such an attack, was severely burned when a stalker hurled acid at her in 2014.
Acid throwing, also known as “acid attacks,” is the deliberate use of acid—a cheap, easily purchased and immediately lethal chemical. Predators aim to maim, blind, and cause permanent physical and mental damage to their victim. Results can prove deadly. Motives are tied to gender biases, aimed at keeping women in their place, domestic or land disputes, perceived dishonor, jealousy and revenge for rejection of romantic or sexual advances.
Natalia, and other victims are left with unimaginable long-term consequences, permanent disfigurement of face and body, as well as physical, medical, psychological and economic hardships. In many places this is compounded by the likelihood legal resources are corrupt or unaffordable and recovery support is either non-existent or unattainable.
South Asian countries like Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia have some of the highest occurrences of acid attacks in the world, although in Bangladesh they have managed to reduce 75% of acid attacks since 2012. A key player in reducing attacks is ASTI, which supports projects such as Saving Face the Oscar Winning Documentary.
But acid attacks are a worldwide phenomenon not restricted to a particular geographical location, race or religion. Colombia, where Natalia is from, reports one of the highest rates of acid attacks per capita. Sadly, it was not until more than 900 people were attacked that Colombians woke up to this outrageous aggression.Natalia chose to fight back. It took the battle of this young, yet determined victim and her supporters to form Natalia Ponce de León Foundation and campaign for the amendment of a law that now prosecutes the attackers, protects the victims and regulates acid sale.
Natalia and other active supporters from NGO’s, business and government are designing ways to integrate survivors back into mainstream society. They are influencing cultural perceptions, shaping policy change, and combating these barbaric acts. Efforts include heightened awareness and transformational programs focused on acceptance and inclusion, with the ultimate goal of eradicating this type of violence. Natalia’s heroism and unwavering efforts led to this recent law enacted in January 2016.
Helping victims regain confidence to go forward in life are the missions of organizations such as,#MakeLoveNotScars, who are running a campaign on YouTube, “Beauty Tips” to #EndAcidSale. Another model for change is Sheroes Hangout, a cafe in Agra, India, which primarily employs survivors of acid attacks. Sheroes Hangout is an initiative of #StopAcidAttacks campaign, which tackles the problem from a cultural perspective, examining beauty and the importance of appearance in society.
Designing global visibility and efforts to eradicate this and other form of gender based violence, are part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals that aim to reduce all forms of violence. As noted by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, “World leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to shift the world onto a path of inclusive sustainable and resilient development,” and Natalia’s work supports shaping a world that promotes just, peaceful and inclusive societies.
Natalia’s and other causes like hers are models to how open-mindedness, acceptance and inclusion can positively affect the scares of violence, and give a voice to shaping a shared future with a bright outlook.
Please join us at:
“Masks of Courage: Defining True Identity” an exhibition to honor the brave work of Natalia, her Foundation and supporters to heal scares, and to promote and protect the human rights of victims of chemical attacks, globally.
The exhibition will take the viewers through a journey that separates the sense of self worth from external attributes of identity, to ultimately confront them to the reality acid attack victims’ experience.
The show challenges the collection of attributes that defines how we see ourselves, and how others perceive us. Our face, body, language, relationships, what we wear, like and own, paints an image of who we are. But what happens when we take those things away? Who are we then?
The art curetted for the exhibition will be raffled, auction and sold, with all profits of the sales to go to the Natalia Ponce de León Foundation.
272 Clinton Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11205
917 653 6408
Thursday, April 28th 2016
A special cocktail reception
7pm – 11pm
All invited, no cost
donations to the foundation welcome
Friday, May 5th, 2016
Net Impact and Pratt Catalyst
Host a panel discussion
5:30pm – 7:00 Panel at Pratt Institute (Location details will be posted – check back)
7:00pm – 11pm – Gallery House, meet the panel and view the exhibition
All invited, no cost
RSVP on this link – Space is limited
donations to the foundation welcome
View the exhibition
Friday, April 29 – Friday, May 5, 2016
By appointment only
About the Authors:
Maria Camila Pava, is Natalia Ponce de León’s cousin and considers Natalia more like a sister. Maria works tirelessly to support her cousin and the good work of the Foundation, which Maria was instrumental in creating. Currently, Maria continues her support to Natalia and the Foundation from the US where she designed this Gallery House Exhibition and Panel event with the help of her DM classmates. Maria is also the Graduate Assistant in the office of the Chair of Design Management (DM) Program at Pratt, and is a program participant, Class of 2017.
Leslie Kirschenbaum, Catalyst Leadership, Graduate Design Management Class of 2012 and Design Manager Mount Sinai Health System, Marketing Communications.