The tale of Pakistani acid attack survivor, Zakia, is still etched in Ashwaq Hamood Hassan Al Hashmi’s memory. The Emirati medical sculptor first saw the images of Zakia’s acid-ravaged face more than six years ago yet she can vividly recall the incident. Ashwaq’s Omniyati Prosthetics Arts Centre in Deira sponsored the cost for prosthetics for Zakia, while her mentor, Daril B. Atkins, Clinical Anaplastologist at Rashid Hospital, created a facial prosthetic for the victim. Zakia was disfigured after her husband allegedly threw acid on her face when she had filed for divorce.
“This was a very significant case at the beginning of Omniyati’s journey and I was very happy to be part of,” she tells GN Focus. “Zakia was able to bring the perpetrator to justice and was also featured in the documentary Saving Face, which won an Academy Award in 2012. Since then we have helped acid burns victims from Egypt and other countries with the facial prosthetic devices to cover their damaged parts.”
From artificial eyes and limbs to mastectomies and facial prosthesis, Ashwaq’s Omniyati Prosthetics Arts Centre creates body parts for people who need them at reasonable prices.
“I started the centre as a start-up with help from Dubai SME,” says Ashwaq, Omniyati's founder and director. “I got the idea to start this business after resigning from Rashid Hospital as a senior medical sculptress. I was passionate about my work at the hospital so it just felt natural to start a business in my field of work and experience.”
After getting a degree in business studies, Ashwaq was initially employed as a physiotherapy assistant at Rashid Hospital. However, one day she spotted a cosmetic prosthetic lab at the hospital, where human body replacement parts were being made. “I became so interested in its activities that I requested a transfer to that lab and since then this has become my passion,” she says, adding, “With my years of experience in anaplastology, first through my work as a trainee with Atkins at Rashid Hospital and later through courses abroad that I pursued with the support of the government, I started Omniyati Prosthetics Arts Centre.
“When I first decided to start my business, I was told by financial analysts that this type of business would not be financially viable as they cater to a niche market. However, with support from the Mohammad Bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprises, I have been able to prove all of them wrong.”
When asked to share success tips with aspiring entrepreneurs, Ashwaq says, “Starting a business from scratch takes a lot of persistence, planning and patience. My advice to young entrepreneurs is not to give up. If you have a vision or a dream, you can make this a reality with all the facilities and support that the UAE offers.”