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While Climate Change Depletes The Planet, Here’s What Young People Can Do To Save It

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By Vivek D’souza:

The United Nations had its final Open Working Group (OWG) sessions on Sustainable Development from 14 — 18 July 2014, where member states, UN agencies and civil society organizations negotiated to have a full-fledged working SDG outcome for the post-2015 development agenda. The ‘proposed’ outcome document, consisting of 17 goals for the consideration of United Nations General Assembly will decide the future we want.

sustainable development

‘Sustainable development’ is a phrase that one hears a lot by universities and other institutions in their effort to promote their approach to education. Educators insist they are helping their students be more aware about it, that they are instilling its importance in the minds of young people. Yes, “sustainable development” is surely a wonderful phrase that seeks to promote a lifestyle without compromising the needs of future generations. Nevertheless, with all the wonders associated with it, do many of us come close to qualifying as living in a sustainable world? Sustainable development isn’t a one-sided approach as there are many possible ways to incorporate a sustainable lifestyle. However, as technical as it sounds, the idea of having a sustainable lifestyle implies something far deeper and more complex.

Most of us are blinded by the fact that we can adopt sustainable means of living by ourselves, without knowing what’s at stake and what all we have to face in the future. We happen to be so busy with our impersonal lives, that we do not realize the effect on our families, our society, and the environment.

Environment? Yes!

Our lifestyle affects our environment. We do get reminded every time that the environment plays a vital role not only for us, but also for all liveable ecosystems. But, do we take the necessary measures to reduce environment degradation and climate change? Goal 13 of Outcome Document of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development says, “Take urgent actions to combat climate change and its impacts”. However, the steps towards achieving this goal by 2020 are not yet known. As important as all goals are, combating climate change has always been of significant importance because of its adverse impacts. Globalization has changed the world for the better in terms of communication, advancement of science and technology, new inventions and discoveries, but have we become its slaves and forgotten to have a concern for the environment?

Now, considering what has been said and done, many may wonder about how they can be active and participatory members of a society that can help combat the issue of climate change. The United Nations being the best platform for global civil participation in existence can act, even in an ad hoc way, to help solve global issues including that of climate change. It seems easy to dismiss the UN and complain about its work. Nevertheless, it is often clear that those who attack the UN are usually speaking in a position of ignorance and misinformation. Of course the UN is a complex platform that deals with a plethora of socioeconomic and political issues. But at the moment, many people who work within the UN system are working towards the achievement of these goals, so that the needs of future generations aren’t compromised. Member states, UN agencies, and civil society groups have been working hard so that the outcome document produced gets implemented in its actual sense and is not just something written on a piece of paper. Again, many of us who claim to combat climate change may be confused by the post-2015 talk.

Post-2015 development agenda? What about 2014? What is the significance of the year 2015? Well, in order to fight climate change, one must recall the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and have knowledge about the Outcome Document of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development. With climate change as the growing issue of concern, the Cop20 conference by the UNFCCC in Lima, Peru is just around the corner, which would decide the fate of the world in terms of combating climate change. This road is not as easy as it may seem because many countries may be faced by political questions in terms of their contribution and actions to combat the issue, and that of accountability. By 2014, almost everyone has realized that times are changing, and that immediate action needs to be taken in order to save the planet from death and destruction. But how can the average human being be a beacon of change? The answer to this issue and to the ever-growing chain of issues is quite simple — inclusive participation, especially from young people.

Young people play a major role in the society today and are considered the drivers of development. From a youth perspective, I believe that it is very important for young people to play active and participatory roles in policy making and advocacy. Young people need to know that they have a significant role to play in negotiations. They need to find ways of how to get involved. In terms of climate change, young people need to know about the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). They need to develop an interest in such activism and be involved in UN Major Groups (MGs) and constituencies like the Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) and YOUNGO, which deal with climate change. The MGCY allows youth under the age of 30 to partake in policy debates around issues of sustainable development. They also need to be active in civil society organizations that can lobby directly with governments to incorporate sustainable development in their policies. They should ensure that governments should be held accountable in what they say and do. Participation in terms of attending a conference is useless as climate change is not an individual issue, but a global one. Yes, it is important to show up, and young people need to consistently be involved in the policy making processes. As they go back to their countries, they need to disseminate the knowledge in society, spread awareness and should form coalitions with their governments in order to combat the issue of climate change at a national and sub-national level. This so-called “follow-up procedure” is vital as it contains data that may help combat climate change and help incorporate sustainable development measures and mechanisms to be implemented.

We are too distracted, overworked and tired to even think about domestic and political issues, let alone international ones. As a result, the energy necessary to achieve some of the SDG goals may seem like a fleeting dream. Nevertheless, the world has never been more independent than today. The issues of environmental degradation and climate change do not simply affect two states, they affect us all. Now more than ever, we need to look beyond our lives and need to see how we too can contribute to the changing world for our own good and for the future of those yet to come!

‘Be the change you wish to see to see in the world’-Mahatma Gandhi

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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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