Ria Sharma founded the organization “Make Love Not Scars” about nine months ago. It is a great project, designed to help women that had to suffer an acid attack. Ria wanted to help – and so she did. Read below her thinking and emotions behind this great project.
“Make Love Not Scars started of as just an idea for my final major project while I was studying fashion at Leeds College Of Art 9 months ago. I always had a deep rooted interest in women empowerment. Even though I was studying all the way in Leeds away from India, I always found myself keeping up with current issues that revolved around women rights. Every third year student in the UK is expected to write a dissertation and it came as no surprise to my tutors that I would choose to write on women empowerment. When our final major projects came around I found myself dwelling on the issue of acid attacks just trying to relate it to fashion in some aspect so I could explore the field further. Before I knew it I was on my way back to India to spend my final semester making a documentary on acid attacks in India. When I started meeting with all the brave survivors my life starting changing a little bit. All the petty things that were once important jus started to become insignificant. Previously when I had a problem my parents would comfort me by saying “but there are so many people that have it worse” and I never really knew what to do with that quote because even though someone somewhere had it worse, that wasn’t going to put an end to my troubles. When I started interacting with the girls more I finally not only understood that quote but it ended up playing up on my own reality. I started finding it impossible to dwell on my small obstacles because I felt guilty of making myself feel worthless when I knew so many girls that had nothing and still felt like something. Every girl dreams of a boy saving them (I don’t know from what though) and for the longest time I was that girl that day dreamt of a boy saving me from my troubled thoughts but somewhere along my journey those dreams just changed. My work was saving me. I wasn’t a lost young adult anymore, I had seen far too many lost faces, hospital wards, far too much misery and happiness for wanting to be saved anymore. The girls that I thought I had to save were now saving me and it was beautiful because I never knew it was possible.
Before I even knew it I was running campaigns for victims of acid attacks and there came a point when I had to realise that this wasn’t a documentary anymore. I met a survivor in Bangalore (Haseena) who inspired me and literally opened my eyes to a world I didn’t even know existed. If strength, courage and hope had to be envisioned in human form, I would probably say Haseena would be its best representation. Haseena is blind but in my eyes she has already conquered the world. Independence at its best, a workingwoman and she probably types a message faster than I do, now that’s saying something! She decided to stop working as an activist because she was disheartened by the corruption in the field. The day I met Haseena, everything changed. She picked me, I was a 21 year old that didn’t know anything about the law, about acid, about trauma or the way forward but she picked me. She guided me, nurtured me and showed me how to actually change lives. There would be days when I would just want to give up and not go further but she walked me through it and assured me that I could do it. I was suddenly living two lives. My friends, my family didn’t even know of the things I had seen and now it was too late to turn back. The reason I got so close to my survivors was because they were the only ones that truly understood the other aspect of my life now. I wasn’t a survivor but I was equally traumatised. With the help of the survivors I started to discover my own strength and my work became my one true love. They say that if you find something you love doing, you’ll never work a day in your life and I cant begin to tell you how true that actually is.
I am guilty of witnessing beautiful things and thanks to my work I witness these beautiful things everyday. I see my survivors take small steps towards recovery, which involve overcoming huge obstacles. To explore every aspect of the field I have visited numerous burn wards in government hospitals. These wards have remained the root cause of my nightmares but they make me a stronger person. I have stood in on plastic surgeries and I have learnt how to move past the initial shock of seeing cut up flesh and move onto appreciating how each surgery, each scar is sending a girl of on her path to recovery. If you showed me a picture of mutilated face a year ago, I would probably cringe. If you show me a picture now, it sets a series of questions into motion the first being “how can we help?”. I am blessed to have a team of individuals that go above and beyond to help me bring my vision to life. Make Love Not Scars is only 9 months old but we have already funded numerous surgeries, helped survivors get legal aid, helped survivors pursue their dreams and this is just the beginning. We want to create a self sufficient system set in place by the survivors for the survivors and since a lot of the survivors already work with the organisation, I know that day is not far away. It’s not about the short term victories, together we are trying to create something that will stand the test of time in the long run. Like any job, there are days when you want to just give up or take a day off but there’s just no giving when another life depends on your day off, now is there?
No one should ever have to go through what my survivors go through. You can’t do anything bad enough to deserve it. An acid attack is the worst sort of crime you can inflict on another human being and I urge people to come and help. I urge people to not only donate but to come spend time with these girls. Don’t do it for them, do it for yourself because only then will you see how blessed you truly are. Only then will you be able to see the quote “beauty is only skin deep” in human form, only then will you be able to see that the challenge is not getting up and moving on with your life but just being alive itself.”
More infos on MLNS you can find at http://makelovenotscars.org/ or at their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/makeluvnotscars