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Delhi Youth Summit On Climate – 2013: For It Is The Youth That Will Inherit This City

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By Jayanthi A. Pushkaran:

“Who is the finance minister of India?”

“Shri P. Chidambaram” replied the young listeners, unanimously.

“Make no mistake my friends, monsoon is our true finance minister” stated Sunita Narain, the renowned Indian environmentalist, while addressing a group of youth delegates assembled at the University of Delhi. About 80% of annual rainfall in India occurs during the monsoon season which provides the much needed water for agriculture and basic human needs. Experts warn that rainfall in India is likely to become much more variable due to climate change and has serious implications for millions of poor farmers and the India’s agricultural productivity. Clearly, the buzzword of the past few decades, ‘Climate Change’, is not a hoax anymore but a reality. More droughts, floods and extreme events are pointing to this fact. Will this country be able to sustain growth without water, food and livelihood security? The Indian monsoon and its increasing variability due to global warming, thus require our urgent attention. “We need to rethink our present urban development models and reinvent our city planning with sustainability at its core”, suggests Narain.

Dysoc Participants

It was a unique gathering of youth from across Delhi, at Miranda House College, who called for an environmentally sound urban planning for the capital. The so called cellphone and social networking addicted youth what we might dub “Generation Y”, are actually quite concerned about the environmental, economic, and social conditions of the capital. The recently concluded Delhi Youth Summit on Climate-2013, organised by the NGO Delhi Greens, brought together around 100 young participants to stimulate a wide-ranging debate to generate a dialogue on various urban environmental challenges in the wake of climate change. A collective conscience is underway, a commitment to preserve environment is rapidly gaining momentum. These voices are not of activists, pressure groups, experts and leaders, but the voices of those whose common future is at stake.

These youngsters believe that India must act on climate change on the ground level. “We have to take responsibility as individuals” says Shreemoyee Kumar, a college student attending the summit. We make choices every day that affect the environment, do I throw away this paper? How much water should I use? Which mode of transport should I choose? In their recommendations for government, civil society and public in the youth charter, they demand strict ban on felling of trees, proper water and sanitation facilities, efficient and safe public transport, quality public space, bike lanes and walking space, comprehensive recycling and composting programmes, renewable energy and enforcement of efficiency measures and responsible green leadership. The call for equality and access resonate throughout the summit with participants seeing inequality, poverty and poor environmental management as unjust and unacceptable.

Despite the oft-repeated claim by the Delhi state government that the city is one the world’s greenest capitals, the young citizens strongly feel that something is not well. In the past decade, around 23% of Delhi’s area includes green cover and water bodies, has been lost to infrastructure development and rapid urbanization. A recent study conducted by the National Remote Sensing Centre for the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) highlights that the city has lost 32,769 hectares of green cover and 1,464 hectares of water bodies. “The Delhi Ridge and its forest, which is a part of Aravalli hills, is one of the oldest mountain systems in the world and natural heritage”, says Faiyaz Khudsar, the park manager of Yamuna Biodiversity Park. Ridge is known as ‘Delhi’s Lungs’ and serves significant ecological functions such as controller of pollution, climate moderator, and groundwater recharge, prevents soil erosion besides being a safe haven for birds and wildlife. However, it is shrinking due to the pressures exerted by developmental activities such as housing, mining, petrol pumps, and unsustainable land use. “This is a dangerous trend as Ridge is losing its diversity and native species”, cautions Khudsar.

Frameworks for sustainable and equitable city planning are being discussed and explored across the world, and some countries such as Australia and Brazil are trying to bring in these values in their planning processes. In the quest to become world class, Delhi should not alter the vital natural processes that ensure the availability of clean air, water, shelter, green cover and right to sustainable livelihoods.“The environmental ethic missing in our economic and governance regime has to be revived through socio-political and legal means rather than unrelenting technology led urbanisation” asserts Aastha Kukreti of Delhi Greens.

“What should I do when I see trees being felled, Yamuna being dirtied, powerful lobbies polluting this city?” asks a participant.

“These questions do not have easy answers but are important and as stakeholders of this city we must report these activities to civic agencies and media, use provisions of Right to Information Act to seek details, file public interest litigations and if required approach civil society” advises Darpan Singh, a journalist at Hindustan Times. The right of citizens to wholesome environment is sorely neglected in our existing urban agenda. However, these needs will have to be fought for and protected by people’s movement, civil society groups, and individuals. These young citizens feel “this is just a beginning”.

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  1. Rehan Lamba

    Indeed a commendable effort by young minds.

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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.

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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.

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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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