"At the end of your journey, you will face your regrets alone" - Tania Singh

1. Why did you choose to work for Make Love Not Scars (MLNS) instead of joining a corporate?

I truly believe that running a non-profit organisation, or a for-purpose organisation, is the same as running a for-profit company. Just like businesses have competition, non-profits are also vying for a limited pool of donor funds and have to work hard to stand out in their field and convince donors that their cause is the better way to change the world. We have similar segments as businesses in our organisation - marketing, accounting, finance, communications and more.

I worked for a short while in the business world and realised that I felt more motivated and happier when I could closely understand the purpose I was working towards rather than blindly selling a product or service I didn't wholeheartedly believe in. Hence, I decided to channel my energy into women's rights and use my skills from the corporate world in the for-purpose world instead. 

2. What is the state of acid attack survivors in India today and how is MLNS plugging in that gap?

Acid attack survivors are some of the most marginalised people in our country. Most survivors are attacked by people known to them such as extended family members, in-laws, abusive husbands, scorned lovers and more. India is also a country where victim blaming is rampant, with questions like "What did you do to have been attacked with acid" thrown at the survivor without second thoughts. As a result, most survivors never report the crime due to fear of victim blaming or fear of retaliation from their families and communities and hence, they never really gained traction in society and were hidden from mainstream society. Many people in India and globally still do not know what an acid attack is. 

However, we are working towards rehabilitating acid attack survivors and work towards bringing about awareness of their plight. We fund full surgeries for survivors, manage their psychological rehabilitation, fund skill training and education, connect them with legal aid and campaign to fight for acceptance in society for survivors. We run social media campaigns to end over the counter sale of acid and request companies to hire survivors in customer-facing roles. Our #SkillsNotScars campaign was the first campaign of it's kind - highlighting video CV's of acid attack survivors and calling on employers to hire survivors into customer-facing roles. Today, acid attack survivors are slowly gaining the courage to step outside without second thoughts about their scars since we continuously work towards reminding them of the fact that they are survivors and are not to be blamed for what happened to them. 

3. How exactly does MLNS rehabilitate and support acid attack survivors?

We are responsible for the full rehabilitation of survivors. We first and foremost focus on medical rehabilitation and fund all surgeries, post-op care and medication cost. We then support survivors in becoming contributing members of society by funding education and skill training and help them set up small businesses or find jobs. We also fund the education of their children in cases where one survivor is attacked by his or her own partner since in such cases, the children suffer severe emotional trauma which can stunt their future. We also run the world's first rehabilitation centre for acid attack survivors which runs as a halfway home for survivors where survivors recover post-treatment in Delhi and live while studying. 

4. What is the book co-authored by you, Being Reshma all about? Why should everyone get their hands on it?

Being Reshma is the incredible journey of Reshma Qureshi, an acid attack survivor who is the face of Make Love Not Scars. Reshma was just 17 years old when she was attacked with acid yet went on to become the world's first acid attack survivor to walk the New York Fashion Week. She was also the face of the Make Love Not Scars #EndAcidSale campaign which was a series of beauty vlogs by Reshma, with a call to action to sign a petition demanding an end to over the counter sale of acid. It received over 350,000+ signatures on the petition to the Supreme Court of India and as a result, led to the Supreme Court instructing all states to uphold the ban. Her memoir is extremely inspirational and a strong reminder of what it means to survive a gender-based crime. 

At a time when conversations around women's rights are at the forefront of every major dialogue, this book makes a vital read and puts a face to the thousands of gender-based crime stories we read about every month. 

5. How can we prevent more such acid attacks and what role will MLNS play in the future?

We can prevent acid attacks by first and foremost, reporting stores that are selling acid over-the-counter. The longer-term solution is to have governments implement gender sensitisation and equality programs in schools while children are young and impressionable. The future generations should not grow up to follow the deeply entrenched patriarchal society we live in today.

MLNS is actively working to spread awareness on what to do in the case of an acid attack and how we can stop acid attacks. Soon enough, we wish to have an MLNS chapter in every city, town and village where volunteers go into schools, neighbourhoods and other areas to spread awareness on gender equality and how to end acid attacks. 

6. How different is it to work in an NGO versus a Corporate house or a startup?

I truly believe it is the same thing. Only, we aren't selling a product or a service, but we are selling you the idea of a better world! 

7. You left a job in Kuala Lumpur to come and join MLNS again. What is your message you youngsters who want to follow their heart?

At the end of the day, each and every person who placed their expectations on you will either be gone, dead or far too involved in their own lives to follow up to see if you are happy or not. I know it sounds morose, but it is true. At the end of your journey, you will face your regrets alone and it is better to have tried and failed than to regret and linger over the could have's. I say follow your heart - the world is large and one day, it'll all work out for the best when it comes to your journey. 

Tania Singh, CEO, Make Love Not Scars

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"At the end of your journey, you will face your regrets alone" - Tania Singh "At the end of your journey, you will face your regrets alone" - Tania Singh Reviewed by EMN on May 21, 2019 Rating: 5

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