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These People Help The Earth By Making It “Easy For Us” To Be Good

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By Charumati Haran:

One of the most popular economic sayings is that “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. Families all over the world follow it in their daily lives and children are taught to judge every option for its pros and cons.

How does this relate to the environment? Let’s face it: People will not usually help the environment if they cannot see some kind of benefit. For example, when one has a choice between using a cloth bag which is expensive or using a plastic bag which is universally available and versatile. It is a similar to the choice between using a petrol car versus a diesel car. In fact, many times, environment friendly alternatives are either more expensive or harder to obtain. While many may be convinced by pure love for the environment, it is a different matter for those who have limited resources (including patience!). Many people can only vaguely understand that it will help “the earth”. Many also believe that because they alone cannot influence the environment movement and so it would make no impact whether they alone pollute or protect. Especially when one considers that many people may not be educated or learned enough to understand all the benefits, it is not surprising that the initiatives to help the environment do not get as much help as they should. The challenge therefore in this day and age is to make helping the environment economically viable and useful for the great majority.


Another thing that would be of great help would be to make it fashionable. If helping the environment is adopted by the youth the same way they have adopted mobiles, internet and facebook, progress will be much faster. The problem here is that many of the admirable initiatives, sometimes taken by the youth themselves, do not receive enough publicity.

So keeping these two things in mind, I would like to share with the readers 3 initiatives which make it easy to help the environment:

1. The Citizen Sparrow Initiative — Anyone living in India, especially those in urban cities, would have noticed by now the decline in the numbers of sparrow. These lovely birds and their chirping will soon be left only in memory if something is not done to save them. The citizen sparrow initiative is by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) which tries to document the population and specially the distribution of sparrows. One can visit here , create an account and fill out a simple questionnaire. Any citizen can contribute his knowledge of sparrows in a particular location, how many they remember, when they saw them and so on. A comprehensive database is being formed with member contributions marked on a map. This data will be very helpful to BNHS and the organizations which are collaborating with the BNHS on this project. A similar campaign has been launched by the Nature Forever Society. Their ‘Common Bird Monitoring of India’ programme is on www.

2. Rural innovations — It is not shown often enough in the mainstream media about how rural areas of India have become a hotbed for innovation. A cycle that runs on water and land, a scooter-powered flour mill, a solar mosquito killer, a cycle-powered washing machine, a pollution control device that can be attached to almost any genset — these are just a few of the over 100,000 outstanding innovations that have come from rural India. Some of the innovations, like the scooter-powered-flour mill have made debuts (in the film 3 Idiots), but a majority of these brilliant ideas and products are yet to be recognized across the country. They should be taken up and encouraged by state governments and central governments through grants. These innovations are tailored to the requirements of the rural areas and are often much cheaper than using conventional products. The National Innovation Foundation maintains a database of nearly 1, 40,000 innovations in a number of fields. However, because not all are publicized or sponsored, they do not reach their full potential in the national or international market. This will also be important in economic upliftment of the poor.

3. Eco-friendly startups — This is a much more successful version of the above. Young entrepreneurs are making waves with startups in retail. The startups themselves are quite varied: Some focus on selling quirky eco-friendly products for home use including Haathi Chaap, Bougainvilla Design and DastKari Haat Samiti. Others focus on activities like packaging (HonECOre). Sarga focuses on textiles, both industrial and textile. An example of online retail is Some designers are even using the abundant waste in our society to create works of Art! Examples are Junk 2 Inbox and Wonder Waste.

Of course, to all of these one can add the more commonly heard pieces of advice: reuse paper, conserve water and electricity, carpool, use public transport and so on. But one has to analyze deeply to figure out why so many people do not follow these ideas, even when they can conveniently do so. Personal preferences may be one reason, but many times people genuinely believe that the current state is better than switching to an eco-friendly way of doing things. This is where it has to be made easier for people. While the government undoubtedly plays a very important role in this, the role of the people is to ensure the right changes are made. The most convenient way to do that these days, is an RTI application, as getting the right information is the first step to solving a problem. A fight against the system may seem personal at first, but inspiration spreads when someone takes the first step.

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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, 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.

Bidisha was selected in’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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