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The Sixteenth Summit of SAARC: Filing Information

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Sampa Kundu:

The sixteenth summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was held on April 28-29, 2010 at Thimphu, Bhutan.

The summit was attended by the Prime Ministers of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan and Presidents of Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Apart from this, the summit was observed by representatives from Australia, Myanmar, US, EU, Iran, Japan, Korea and Mauritius.

The member -state leaders issued ‘Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration: Towards a Happy and Green South Asia’ on the completion of the summit at Thimphu. The declaration consists of a number of new promises, agenda and planning. Here, I would like to draw your attention to some of the assurances and scheduling as stated in the summit declaration and other statements published by SAARC.

The state leaders agreed that the Silver Jubilee Year of SAARC should be commemorated by making SAARC truly action oriented by fulfilling commitments, implementing declarations and decisions and operationalizing instruments and living up to the hopes and aspirations of one-fifth of the world population.

The leaders agreed to set up some new forums like ‘South Asia Forum’, ‘Conclave of SAARC Parliamentarians’ and so on.

In order to foster people-centric development, with due emphasis on socio-cultural progress and upholding traditions and values, the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) was noted and welcomed was Bhutan’s offer to host a SAARC Workshop on GNH in 2010.

The ‘Thimphu Statement on Climate Change’ was adopted by the member nations at the summit. According to it, the leaders agreed to take some actions.

It includes the following;

* Establish an Inter-governmental Expert Group on Climate Change to develop clear policy direction and guidance for regional cooperation as envisaged in the SAARC Plan of Action on Climate Change.
* Commission a study for presentation to the Seventeenth SAARC Summit, to be held at Maldives, on ‘Climate Risks in the Region: ways to comprehensively address the related social, economic and environmental challenges’.
* Commission a study to explore the feasibility of establishing a SAARC mechanism which would provide capital for projects that promote low-carbon technology and renewable energy; and a Low-carbon Research and Development Institute in South Asian University.
* Plant ten million trees over the next five years (2010-2015) as part of a regional aforestation and reforestation campaign, in accordance with national priorities and programmes of Member States.

The member countries also welcomed the signing of the SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment and called for its early ratification and implementation. They called for further negotiations and early finalization of the SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters as well.

Leaders directed the relevant SAARC committee to organize a SAARC Youth Summit, involving policy makers and youth leaders from all Member States.

It was said that the South Asia University will inaugurate its first session from August 2010. Further the leaders asked the Steering Committee to work towards finalizing the modalities of the University.

The Leaders agreed that an Action Plan on Energy conservation would be prepared by the SAARC Energy Centre (SEC), Islamabad with inputs from the Member States and submit to the inter- governmental mechanism for consideration. They called for the creation of a web portal on Energy Conservation for exchange of information and sharing of best practices among SAARC Member States.

The Leaders noted the proposal from India for preparing a Roadmap for developing a SAARC Market for Electricity (SAME) on a regional basis, as SAARC is considering electricity trading, supported by enabling markets in the Member States.

This SAARC Summit has given India a sense of pride as Dr. Ravikant Singh from Bihar received the SAARC Youth Award 2009, for his exceptional contributions during the Bihar flood of August 2008. The flood affected over 2.3 million people in the northern part of Bihar. Dr. Singh, through his NGO (Doctors for You) mobilized 110 doctors for a period of six months. They treated about 130,000 patients and organized more than 300 Health camps. ‘Doctors for you’ was also involved in relief works including distribution of relief materials. In this process they distributed about 18 tons of relief material to the affected people.

The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh met other Prime ministers and Presidents of other member states on sideline meetings.

In his meeting with Pak Prime Minister, His Excellency Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, our PM said that India is willing to discuss all issues of concern with Pakistan and to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue. At the same time he told that the issue of terrorism is holding back progress. In turn, Prime Minister Gilani said that Pakistan would not allow Pakistan territory to be used for terrorist activity directed against India.

The summit ended with lots of hopes, expectations and new promises. Till date, SAARC has not been able to live up to the expectations of people in South Asia, let us see what changes it will bring in future to strengthen regional cooperation and trust.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

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