Make Love Not Scars (MLNS), co-founded by Ria Sharma and Tania Singh, aims to rehabilitate survivors of acid attacks.
When she was 21, Taniya Singh was met with a serious fire accident while she was studying in Singapore. She had to go through multiple surgeries, skin grafts, and reconstruction of her ear. But doing this in a foreign country was a bit emotionally daunting for her. She asked her father if she can have her treatment in India. Her father did a quick research on various hospitals and informed her that the state of India in burn treatment is pathetic. Taniya herself went online and did research on burn treatment in India. That is when she came across the picture of an acid-attack survivor. Taniya realized how this is a reality for many Indian women. She wanted to do something to help these people.
While searching online she came across the Facebook page of ‘Make Love Not Scars’ (MLNS) which was set up by Ria Sharma. Taniya contacted Ria to know if she can make any monetary contributions to the organization. Instead, Ria asked her if she can help her set the organization up properly. Ria was studying fashion communication at Leeds Arts University in London at that time while Tania was in Singapore.
Like this, Ria and Taniya who had not even met began to collaborate over the internet and started ‘Make Love Not Scars’. It is a non-profit organization that aims to rehabilitate survivors of acid attacks. It operates a rehabilitation centre for acid attack survivors in Delhi and focuses on providing immediate life saving medical attention, reconstructive surgeries, legal aid and skill training to help them cope with the massive changes.
Tania graduated and got a job at a tech startup called ServisHero as a Marketing Associate, but she had a three-month break before joining her company and decided to come back to India. During that time Taniya helped Ria set up MLNS’s rehabilitation centre in Delhi and met with many acid attack survivors. Even after coming back to Singapore, she could not forget the faces of the acid-attack survivors. She quit her job in Singapore and came back to India to work for MLNS for good.
MLNS started India’s first residential facility for acid attack survivors in 2016 to help those who were left to fend for themselves. The centre also helps survivors overcome their emotional struggles through recreational activities like yoga and poetry classes. Ria and Tania decided to impart skill training to the survivors to help them become financially independent. They also realized that many survivors had children who were silent spectators of abuse and also had trauma. In order to help them, MLNS also crowdfunds for their education and enrols them in boarding school so they could heal in a normalized environment.
The non-profit has collaborated with Meer Foundation (Found by Shah Rukh Khan), which conducts surgeries for acid attack survivors. They also have corporate donors who contribute from time to time. They did a campaign called #EndAcidSale in 2015 in collaboration with Ogilvy and Mather. The NGO released a series of beauty tutorials, calling for a complete ban on the over-the-counter sale of acid with survivor Reshma Qureshi going viral on the internet.
These videos have over two million views to date and it was accompanied by a petition addressed to the Government of India, demanding a complete ban on toilet-cleaning acid and stronger implementation of the Poisons Act and Poisons Rules. It garnered over two lakh signatures within the first two weeks. On December 8, 2015, the Supreme Court of India directed Indian states to enforce the ban on the over-the-counter sale of acid. The campaign was covered in some of the most coveted news publications like The New York Times and was endorsed by global actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Ashton Kutcher.
Today, Make Love Not Scars continues to help acid-attack survivors. Both Ria Sharma and Taniya Singh are such an inspiration to every human being in the world.
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