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The Perils Of Opulence: It’s Time We Think About It

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By Mahalakshmi Ganapathy:

India is surely a land of contrasts. On the one hand you find poverty abound, people trying hard to live off on two square meals per day and on the other you find millionaires and billionaires, openings of new malls, five star restaurants, money clicking in for some .This contrast was once again highlighted the other day when I was called for an inauguration function of a polyurethane plant near Pune. I agreed to go as I wanted to know and experience first hand what happens in such functions .We drove off in a Scorpio and were en-route to Shirval, a village which does not look like one and instantly looked around me to find just industries and offices from all possible brands here. This quiet village has now been turned into an industrial haven, the agriculture and traditional livelihoods missing in action. All the agricultural land has been sold off by the farmers here and so one just cannot even spot a piece of farming activity in this area.

As soon as we reached the venue, I was ushered into the six —acre piece of land, now converted into a full-fledged industrial zone .We first took a tour of the whole area and the first thing is observed was fans and lights switched on everywhere, places where no one was inside, but still turned on. After having seen the plant, we sat down on the open space created for guests, something that looked like the events where charity dinners are held and I really started to wonder about the basis for this inauguration. No sooner did we sit than plates filled with starters promptly made their way. While offering starters is a norm for such events, what I don’t understand is the indiscriminate use of tissues for every starter that it accompanies. Why can’t people use their basic discretion and use the same tissue, which would save so much paper.

Secondly, bottled water was served every 15 minutes and people who did not even open their bottles, took in a second and another bottle, just sipping once and tossing it away in the bin later. The used bottle of water, even though just one or two sips have been taken becomes unusable and I just wondered why the organisers would not just keep filters of water cans nearby with recyclable glasses, which would have saved so much of water and plastic. Seeing such indiscriminate waste of resources really ticked me off and my mind was bogged down by all sorts of calculations of waste, which made me miss out on the dance performances with those shiny lights and huge sounds. While the performance was going on, even though it was meant for the guests that evening, the villagers that had gathered outside seemed to be enjoying and clapping more that the guests present and these song and music performances were loud enough which would have caused enough disturbances to the nearby households as they extended way beyond the stipulated time prescribed. I really wondered if the villagers were called in would have made better audience.

When it was time for dinner, all I could see was lots and lots of food which was ultimately going to be wasted, end up in the bins, later to be picked up by some beggar in some obscure garbage dump. It occurred to me that if even food was cooked judiciously, it would serve all and still not end up as waste .There are also organisations that collect left-over food and serve the needy. I do not think the organisers made note of this.

Bouquets and bouquets of flowers were lying around later to be picked and collected by the staff and taken home .It surmounts to huge wastage of flowers, only presented for show and glamour, later left to rot. Even the decorations had real flowers and some prudent thinking would have saved money and wastage, had people planned to use artificial flowers for purposes of presentation .

That night after coming back home ,I wondered and thought of all the things I had observed that day. Wastage of resources, unnecessary opulence and wastage of money, the politics of land grab, SEZ’s ,the idea of development and globalisation. I feel this is all on the rise. The rich do not think that their actions are encouraging wastage of resources, exploitation of poor .The government is apathetic to the needs of poor and under the guise of development lends more than a helping hand to industrialists and neglects the poor.

It’s time for us to wake up and analyse the meaning of globalisation and development, come up with alternatives to this dominant paradigm which is not going to stop and also grow ,snowball into bigger problems affecting the poor. We need to look within and ask ourselves whether this is what we want for ourselves and for our country. Is this what we call development and India shining ?

Let’s start thinking!

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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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