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It’s Time For Everyone To Be Very Very Angry About What We Have Done To Nature. Here’s Why!

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By Krishna Prasanth:

They say “ignorance is bliss”. This adage has always re-established itself through various incidents over time, definitely so when it comes to preserving the environment. An excerpt from Ramachandra Guha’s anecdote on Chandi Prasad Bhatt says it all. ‘Once, on the walk to Rudranath, Chandi Prasad met a shepherd burning the flowers of the sacred and beautiful brahmakamal. He asked why he was doing this – it was the week of Nandasthmi – and the shepherd answered that he wouldn’t have, normally, except that his stomach ached horribly and he knew that the extract of the flower would cure him. But, the offender quickly added, I broke off the plant with my mouth, like a sheep, so that the deity would think that it was nature’s natural order, rather than the hand of man at work’. This shows the sensitivity that illiterate people had towards preserving nature although this sensitivity was driven by reverence and social custom. It was the same illiterate mass driven by the same principles of reverence and social custom which launched the first ever environment protection movement. Same is the case in the latest Niyamgiri incident. It’s the illiterate tribals who out of reverence for their hills and forests fought tooth and nail to prevent hundreds of square kilometres of greenery from being wiped off by greedy corporate and an ever so obliging state government.

environment

It is these ignorant and illiterate people who have been saving the country’s precious resources and environment but then it is the same people who are accused for being “too poor to be green”. Educated people in air conditioned conference halls talk of educating the rural mass about environment protection while using fuel-guzzling cars themselves. Such is the immense irony that continues to plague the environmental protection movement in India. Education and the so-called “rationality” has cut off the umbilical cord between humans and nature and has turned them into profit seeking materialistic demons who have forgotten how much they owe to mother nature.

It’s amidst towering buildings and a sophisticated elitist culture that today’s children are growing. They live in concrete jungles, surrounded by the prized products of human ingenuity, products that human civilization takes pride in, which exploit the nature ruthlessly. They take water, air and rice for granted. How would they know the grace of nature when they spend all day studying and all night in front of play stations with no to time to appreciate nature? How would they know the pleasure in simplicity when the only dreams they have ever seen is of becoming rich? The relationship between nature and humans is on tenterhooks, simply because humans think they have learnt to live without her by overpowering her. Humans will continue to exploit the environment and sprint towards doomsday until they learn to value and protect nature out of true gratitude and not because of global warming.

If we are to prevent the impending apocalypse, a change in the ethos of the nation and the world community is sine qua non. It needs a radical change in the way we think about development and growth. The economic mantra of “more is better” needs to be reversed. No technological innovation can prevent the impending disaster, as it is excessive dependence over technology that has lead us to where we are now. Science can only buy us more time, but a change of heart can stave it off forever. This change can only come if we come to embrace a more natural lifestyle, a simpler lifestyle of lesser desires and lesser consumption of non-renewable natural resources. A life where people respect and care for trees and animals and don’t protect them just for the sake of it.

All of this might seem to be a very idealistic conception. But it is only in the pursuit of this utopia that hope lies. I don’t mean that there should be no more cars in the world, or no more machines and industries but less of all of it will do all of us great good. Smaller cities, simpler cities, lesser luxury goods and services and more of manual labour, more of villages and more of holistic education is the direction in which we need to head. Humans have been on the face of the earth for 5 millenniums now but why is it that all of a sudden that man sees peril and destruction? It has everything to do with what man has indulged over the last couple of centuries, in terms of over-industrialization and over-exploitation of natural resources.

Coming back to illiterate-literate divide, I do not wish to propagate or promote illiteracy just because the illiterate tribals have done better. But what I do propose is a rethinking of what being educated means, of what being rational means and what it means to be a human. What makes these so called illiterate and tribal people actually wiser is that they see themselves as a small part of the large universe and live accordingly through humble means within whatever nature gives them and respect the nature for the same, something we need to learn from them. The utilitarian, materialistic and capitalistic philosophies guiding modern civilization need to be shed and we need to introspect and retrospect and more importantly mend our ways because otherwise the ‘die is cast’.

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  1. Raj

    The environmental movement is becoming more and more like a religion with its compulsory and scared belief in the personification and divinity of n”Mother Nature”. You have every right to believe in whatever half-assed religion you want, just don’t force it on the rest of us.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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 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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