Enantra- the entrepreneurship mantra, South India's biggest annual management fest which was conducted from February 7 to February 10, 2019 is a congregation of various corporate owners, startup capitalists and NGO owners of India under one roof to discuss and share their knowledge on entrepreneurship and capitalism. The fest involves marketing and management events, 6 degree talk and the Entretainment Night.
6 Degree Talk is a talk show graced by eminent entrepreneurs in and around India. Ria Sharma, founder of the NGO “Make Love Not Scars” was invited to be one of the speakers. The Guindy Times got a wonderful opportunity to have a quick interview with her.
Interviewers: Sangeetha, Shreenidhi
Interviewee: Ria Sharma
GT: What inspired you to support acid attack victims?
Ria: When I was shooting a documentary “Make Love Not scars” which was about acid attack survivors, I visited many hospitals across the country. The poor state of health of the survivors in the government hospitals inspired me to establish this organization.
GT: You are a fashion graduate from LEEDS. What inspired you to take a turn from fashion to this issue and to start an NGO?
Ria: I was never into fashion. I could never relate to it. I think many people can relate to my situation where they are forced to study something they are not interested in, just because it is more reputable and better than the other courses. Like students being forced to do engineering, I was forced into fashion by my dad. But I was fortunate enough to have found my path before graduating. I hope everyone is as lucky as I am.
GT: Why is the name "Make Love Not Scars"?
Ria: While shooting of the documentary, I was inspired by the slogan, "Make Love Not War". Then I decided to call my documentary "Make Love Not Scars”. At that point, it was a very juvenile thought. I stuck around well at that time and decided to name my organization the same.
GT: How was the support from your circle when you started this?
Ria: My friends and family have always been extremely supportive, though they could not relate to the things I was saying because they were not witnessing this issue first hand. My family and friends are the biggest support system apart from the survivors themselves.
GT: What were the ways you adopted to run the campaign- end acid sale? Did you face a lot of opposition?
Ria: There was not any big opposition. The first video that we launched went viral. No one could oppose a social cause that's trying to bring a change. So if they stood against us by writing comments which spewed hate, they were just ignored. It didn't matter.
GT: How hard was it initially to provide job opportunities for the survivors?
Ria: We have a specific job portal for acid-attack survivors to get connected with the employers. There still exists a social stigma where people don't want to hire them because of the way they look. Fetching them job opportunities is a little hard.
GT: To what extent do you think that the centre has created a social impact.
Ria: I count my success through the smile of every survivor's face that I see every day. I feel that is more than enough for me. I think it's a question you have to ask the survivors, not me.
GT: How has the centre provided mental rehabilitation? What measures did you take for that?
Ria: We found that therapy works only if you are consistent with it and committed to recovery. Initially, we tried to get them to meet the therapist and attend psychological counselling, but what they wanted the most was to meet the people who had undergone the same pain. The existence of the centre itself provides mental stability to them.
GT: As they say, prevention is better than cure- what are the ways you think women can adapt to defend themselves against these extreme attacks?
Ria: I don't think women need to defend themselves from anything. To begin with, they shouldn't be attacked at all. I think that's a mindset that needs to be changed, where we need to stop defending ourselves. Instead, they need to start working on advocacy. That will help the crimes to stop altogether. For example, our organisation started the campaign called "End Acid Sale" where we wanted to ban the open sale of acid altogether so that it will bring down the number of acid attacks.
I don't want a woman to protect herself; I want her to raise voice and stand up for what's right.
GT: Would you support men who have been victims of acid attacks? Can these attacks be eradicated?
Ria: I believe that the definition of feminism is equality. I will support men who are victims of acid attack and I have in the past. If I differentiated between genders, then I would be going against what feminism stands for.
Like any other attack, this cannot be completely eradicated. But the number can be drastically reduced.
GT: What is the one thing that you have learnt from the survivors?
Ria: My thought process and everything that I am today is for them, by them and because of them. They are my inspiration behind the way I think and deal with my own life problems every day. I truly owe them everything.
GT: You have been a huge inspiration for all the girls here. We would be pleased to hear a few valuable words of wisdom from you.
Ria: You can't have a successful feminist movement without the involvement of men. So start talking about feminism to men.
The Guindy Times thanks Ms. Ria Sharma for having spared her valuable time for us and Capitalise, CEG- ENANTRA Team for providing this opportunity to conduct the interview.Tweet