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“We Have Met The Enemy, And He Is Us”

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By Aditya Mani:

‘Don’t Litter’, ‘Save Water’, ‘Save Electricity’, ‘Each one Plant one’, ‘Save the Tiger’. 5 issues, 5 gold medals. 16-year-old Rohit is ecstatic. Each year on the 22nd of April, fondly known as International Earth day, Rohit gets an opportunity to do his family and himself proud. A gifted writer and by no stretch of imagination a greenhorn at pictorial art, Rohit looks forward to such inter and intra school competitions where he can showcase his brilliance at aesthetics and creative imagery. As far as Rohit is concerned, these attempts at spreading awareness among school children are just excuses for gaining recognition by drawing insanely green caricatures of ‘Mother Nature’ or by painting a rather morbid picture of the human race engulfed in either war or starvation.

Ironically (but not surprisingly), Rohit, when not under the harsh and discerning scanner of his school, believes in the exact anti parallel of the principles that he portrays on his canvas. Does Rohit care to switch off the lights when he leaves a room? No. Does Rohit purchase belts that aren’t made by the merciless skinning of animals? No. Furthermore, does Rohit even care about the phenomenon of global warming? No.

This hypocritical demeanour of Rohit is far from bizarre. In fact, the hypocrisy isn’t even his own fault. Rohit conforms to the norms of modern-day society. His parents, his teachers, friends and even his role models belong to the same school of thought. Sadly, the phrase, ‘practise what you preach’ is as redundant as a cassette player.

The prime examples of this hypocritical mentality are many celebrity spokespersons of climate change. Proponents such as Al Gore who speak vehemently against the ill effects of global warming and who urge people worldwide to adopt greener habits, end up wasting a lot more precious resources than required. For example, his own electricity consumption is more than 20 times that of an average US household. The natural gas required to heat his sprawling mansion is equal to that required by a small colony in USA. For the screening of his acclaimed documentary, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, he had flown hundreds of guests from Europe to USA on private jets, again contributing massively to his already immense carbon footprint. [source]

Also, top musical celebrities like Sheryl Crow and Madonna try in their own way to spread public awareness about the climate change, but inevitably do more harm than good; this is due to the fact that when they travel on concerts (which is more often than not), they take with them their entire entourage and most of the time, by jets. Actor John Travolta is very vocal about alternative sources of fuel, but has 4 private jets parked right outside his house [source]. The ‘Live-8’ concerts that were intended to teach through music, the way to build a healthier and greener future has actually burnt a lot more resources in terms of fuel, electricity, food and water than it could have hoped to save. There are thousands of factories and industries worldwide that refuse to carry out Green policies, simply because the cost of doing so far outweighs the incentive meant to be earned by implementing them.

Even if one were to put up an argument stating that such overconsumption is only for the greater good of humanity by rustling up mass awareness the only piece of advice I can give him is to open his eyes. To buy energy-saving CFL bulbs from the neighbourhood shop, people use cars. Plastic bags are frowned upon when given by roadside vegetable vendors, but gladly accepted when distributed in an air-conditioned supermarket. The same firecrackers that are banned during festive occasions like Diwali, magically turn up when either the Indian cricket wins or some local politician. Most NRI’s don’t even dare mix their garbage types in the foreign land, but have no qualms whatsoever in sullying places of national heritage back here in India.

In the present century, although any argument on climate change or its remedies may be done to death, fact of the matter is that no one is living it. Despite the information overload, the urban population fails to take responsibility for its actions or even right its wrongs. Walter Kelly has very aptly stated in his sardonic comic strip ‘Pogo’ in 1970 – ‘we have met the enemy, and he is us’. Need I say more?

Img: http://cloud-no9.deviantart.com/art/SaveEarth-Wallpaper-1024×768-97838767

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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