Leeds College of Art graduate Ria Sharma has been awarded the British Council International Alumni Award for Social Impact by the Lord Mayor Of London and Baroness Valerie Amos at the British Council, Delhi.
The Award acknowledges alumni who have made an exceptional contribution and commitment to creating positive social change and improving the lives of others.
Image: Ria (centre) with fellow winners, Ankit Mehrotra (Entrepreneurial Award) and Nishad Chaughule (Professional Achievement Award).
Ria founded Make Love Not Scars during the final year of her BA (Hons) Fashion degree. Since then Ria and her team have supported the survivors of acid attacks by funding treatments and providing legal support to secure compensation. They have also funded the education of multiple survivors, even helping one individual to pursue their passion by sending them to study design in New York.
Alongside rehabilitation, Ria aims to get justice for the women she supports. Through its work, Make Love Not Scars has created legal benchmarks for cases relating to acid attacks, which is helping other survivors attempting to seek justice.
The Education UK Alumni Awards for India 2016 were presented at an alumni gala to celebrate UK university alumni. The gala was attended by distinguished guests Lord Jeffrey Mountevans, Lord Mayor of the City of London, and Baroness Amos, Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies.
We caught up with Ria after the ceremony and asked her how it felt to receive the award, she said,
“It was both an honour and a shock to receive this award. I was honoured to be put in the same category as some amazing individuals hailing from The university of Oxford and LSE and it was a shock because I never thought I would win it.
It’s amazing to be able to have an international platform to spread awareness on the acid attacks, a cause that is normally stigmatized and kept behind closed doors. I am honoured to be representing the 60 survivors that I work with and I am hoping that through this platform, I will be able to further my cause and come across more like minded people.“
Speaking to the British Council she explained how her UK education at Leeds College of Art was instrumental in the path she has taken:
“My professors recognised where my passion lay, when I couldn’t see it. Even though I was studying Fashion, they helped me find a way to relate my passion for women’s empowerment to my degree, which is something I never thought I could do.” she says.
“The college was instrumental in helping me set up Make Love Not Scars, not only by equipping me with the necessary skills but in encouraging me.”
Professor Randall Whittaker, Leeds College of Art Director of Studies - Higher Education Enhancement and Research, who attended the ceremony in Delhi said,
“We are incredibly proud that Ria has been recognised for her commitment to women’s rights through her inspirational work with the survivors of acid attacks. It was Ria’s dedication to this cause that inspired her to set up Make Love Not Scars in the third year of her BA (Hons) Fashion at Leeds College of Art. Having the opportunity to attend the ceremony and see Ria collect her award was an honour.”
British Council India will support the award recipients with professional development opportunities that will build their professional capacities, skills and networks. The award recipients will also become a part of an international UK Alumni network.
Read more about Ria’s work HERE.
For more information about studying at the College as an international student see our International page HERE.