- Title: Egyptian burn victim takes on stigma through modelling, awareness
- Date: 11th October 2021
- Summary: PHONE SCREEN
- Embargoed: 25th October 2021 12:54
- Keywords: Accessories Burns Egypt Fashion Stigma Victims
- Location: ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT
- City: ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT
- Country: Egypt
- Topics: Middle East,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA002EYPT93P
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Hend El-Banna was making tea one morning over the stove, when the kettle caught fire and burned her arms, neck and chest.
Over twenty years later, the entrepreneur founded an initiative aimed at supporting victims of burns after her personal struggles with social stigma and finding a stable job.
Owner of an online accessories brand called 'Shahrazad', El-Banna models the items herself to battle misconceptions some have towards people with burn injuries.
"After having worked at my job for about a week, the manager came up to me and said that she's sorry but she didn't want me working with them because one of the children was afraid of the way my arms looked," El-Banna said about one of her jobs after moving back to Egypt from Saudi Arabia where she grew up.
El-Banna said the rejection she felt when relocating to Egypt became apparent when she couldn't secure a job.
Four times she was engaged and four times rejected by her fiancÃ©s' families because of how she looks, she says.
Today, El-Banna hopes to empower others like her and educate society in the process via her accessories brand and her initiative 'Ehtewa'a' through which volunteers and doctors provide medication, treatment, and psychological counsel to victims across the country.
One such victim is Hanan Ashraf, a 21-year-old university student who was burned when she was eight, after pouring gasoline onto a fire to keep warm during the winter.
"When I was younger I couldn't look at myself. The first time I looked in a mirror was when I was in 12th grade. I never used to take photographs, if I hadn't taken one photograph in primary school, I would have never known what I really looked like," she said.
Ashraf underwent six reconstructive surgeries over the years but even now she says her appearance makes it difficult to go to school or work.
In just three years, El-Banna's initiative 'ehtewa'a' has helped around 500 people.
"Just because you're a burns victim that does not mean you have to go above and beyond for people to like you, no, just do whatever comes naturally to you," said Mamdouh Mahmoud, another burn victim which El-Banna is helping.
Mahmoud had a total of 17 surgeries since his own injury, a hefty and exhausting cost that many in Egypt cannot afford.
Egypt is home to many charitable organisations aimed at assisting burn victims physically and re-integrating them into society.
The recently established Ahl Masr Hospital built for the free treatment of burn injuries is expected to be the largest in the region and relies on donations for its operations.
(Production: Hanaa Habieb, Mai Shams El Din, Seham Eloraby)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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