A young woman is making a huge difference to the lives of acid attack survivors in New Delhi, India.
Ria Sharma launched non-governmental organisation, Make Love Not Scars, when she was just 21-years-old, and has since changed the lives of 60 survivors in the past 3 years.
Working directly with the survivors, Make Love Not Scars offers legal, medical and financial aid as well as teaching them new skills such as English and computing.
Sadly, acid attacks are a growing problem in India, and it is estimated that over 1,000 take place in the country every year.
In the past, the victims of these horrific attacks have tended to be women, but Ria believes that the demographic of the victims has changed dramatically in the past few years.
She explains, ‘it was always a girl, she was always 16-25 and it was always a spawned lover. But now, over the past few years people have started recognising acid as more of a weapon. Now my youngest survivor is a 6-month old baby boy and my oldest is a 65-year-old woman.’
‘Where in the past it was used more as a form of gender based violence, to put the woman in her place, as we do come from a male dominated society. But I do want to point out that this is no longer the case in my opinion.’
Despite the rise of acid attacks throughout India, there is still a huge amount of social stigma surrounding them, making it difficult for the survivors to rebuild their lives.
Ria explains, ‘survivors have stated that right after their attacks family members have left them, friends have left them, society doesn’t want to see them, people won’t employ them because of the way that they look. So I think it’s more about the stigma that surrounds acid attacks for the survivors.’
One of the ways in which Make Love Not Scars has worked to tackle this is by launching the #SkillsNotScars campaign, aiming to help survivors back into work.
This has developed into the world’s first online job portal dedicated to acid attack survivors. The website includes a profile for each survivor, detailing their skills and interests and offers potential employers the opportunity to hire them directly through the site.
One thing is for sure, and that’s that these survivors are strong. Despite their horrific injuries and the ordeal they have suffered, the victims Ria helps are determined to live as full a life as possible.
Mamta, who attends the Make Love Not Scars group, says, ‘we have the same feelings and heart. We expect the same respect which was snatched from us.’
‘I have a good heart. I’ll behave properly, then another person will also behave properly. I’m living with this thought in my mind.’
Keep up the good work Ria! Watch the video above to find out more about Make Love Not Scars and the inspirational people it has helped.