• Featured: Ria Sharma, 23, has opened India's very first rehab clinic for acid attack survivors. (Facebook)Source: Facebook
WARNING: This story contains graphic images. Ria Sharma, 23, has opened India's very first rehab clinic for acid attack survivors.
By
Shami Sivasubramanian

18 Apr 2016 - 11:38 AM  UPDATED 19 Apr 2016 - 11:40 AM

23-year-old Delhi woman, Ria Sharma, opened India's first acid attack rehabilitation clinic in New Delhi, last month.

The clinic, called Make Love Not Scars (MLNS), offers medical, legal, psychological, and financial support for acid attack victims, as well as for gender-targeted burn and rape victims.

A photo from Make Love Not Scars Rehab Clinic Launch March 7, 2016 (Facebook: Make Love Not Scars)

Recreational activities are also made available to these women, such as yoga and poetry, in addition to "life coping skills" in the form of vocational training courses.

But ultimately MLNS provides a "safe space" for women to both recover from the trauma of their attack and receive quality medical treatment, two things Sharma finds these victims need more that anything else.

The clinic also contains sleeping quarters to house victims of acid attacks who seek refuge from perpetrators. Approximately 1,000 cases of acid attacks on women are reported to the Indian police each year. But according to Acid Survivors Trust International, several more do not report their attacks out of shame, or fear of endangering themselves further.

A photo from Make Love Not Scars Rehab Clinic Launch on March 7. (Facebook: Make Love Not Scars)

The clinic began after Sharma, a fashion designer-turned-filmmaker, created a documentary about acid attacks survivors. Following the film, she launched website in 2014, Make Love Not Scars, an online support forum that featured weekly blogs and stories from acid attack survivors.

Below is a make up tutorial, made viral by the organisation last year:

The clinic is funded primarily by community donations. But where possible, MLNS seeks supports from the Indian Government for free health services.

"[At first,] we struggled to be taken seriously," she explains to PRI. "It was hard to get people to believe in our vision, because, at the end of the day no one wants to trust individuals that young with their money."

A photo from Make Love Not Scars Rehab Clinic launch on March 7. (Facebook: Make Love Not Scars)

This year, MLNS has also worked with advertising giant, Ogilvy & Mathers, to campaign for a ban on selling acid, a product that is sold in India for as little as AUD 49 cents per litre.

Together, MLNS and Ogilvy have mounted billboards across Mumbai to rally support, support that has attracted large donations from big corporations, fuelling the clinic further.

To celebrate and honour her work in this field, Sharma was awarded the British Council International Alumni Award by the mayor of London last month.

Welcoming of the accolades and attention, hoping it will further her cause and clinic, Sharma says this is just the beginning for MLNS.

“I feel really good about the direction we are heading in,” she said. “I think the existence of such a center is going to be extremely instrumental towards changing the lives and future of acid attack survivors.”