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How Delhi Youth Came Together To Give The Govt A Wake Up Call About This Crucial Issue

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By Jagori Dhar:

As a group of youngsters carrying colorful banners, wearing equally psychedelic clothes, gather at a public meeting in the heart of the national capital, they attract sympathizers as well as curious onlookers.

“Aaj kis baat ka protest hai? (Why are they protesting today?) 377? Anti-rape protests? Why should we participate? I am not gay, and not even a woman. It does not affect me,” shrugs off an ignorant onlooker.

But you live on this planet. Duh. And we are protesting to protect it!

It’s a first for Nandini as well. A 19-year-old teenager who not only studies philosophy at Delhi University’s Miranda House, but also believes in implementing it in her life. “Ultimately it’s the youth that will move the Government into action,” she says.

COP15 Climate Lanterns in Delhi

Being an animal rights enthusiast, caring about the environment comes very naturally to her. But it is the recent string of natural calamities unleashed on India that made Nandini take to the streets and draw the attention towards the living threat of climate change — a harbinger of disasters.

For the overtly, upwardly mobile youth of today’s India, environment and climate change perhaps does not strike an immediate cord. Living in their plush south Delhi flats, they choose to think the adverse impacts won’t touch them, even after floods unexpectedly ravaged Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand in two consecutive years.

“Why should I care? I am not leaving Delhi ever! ”

But someone else will be leaving Delhi, not permanently, to participate at the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon’s summit on climate change in New York on September 23.

Climate Action at National Thermal Power Cooperation

As India’s first climate change minister, Prakash Javadekar has the tricky job of representing world’s third largest carbon polluter (according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Sadly, in the run up to this all-important global meet, India has not even been making the right noises. On the contrary, their actions so far have done very little to enthuse confidence that they are serious about tackling this grave issue.

Drowned in the cacophony of achieving economic growth, the climate change minister seems to have misinterpreted his mandate: he has been worsening the impacts of climate change by fast-tracking environment clearances, especially to coal mines and coal power projects, at the cost of India’s rich forests. He seems to have taken off from where his predecessor Veerappa Moily had left, and the break-neck speed at which he is clearing files, he will soon outdo Moily. After all this new government has won on the platform of “ache din” for all, but are keen to ensure its “acche din” for the industry — the health and rights of the people are not as important it seems! So, he has to deliver the promise of “Make-in-India”, sold on many occasions by the Prime Minister, and the short-cut route Javadekar has taken is to steamroll environmental clearances in a bid to ramp-up industrial growth.

Jharia Coal MIne Worker

At the summit, the minister is expected to showcase India’s achievements on climate change, and rest assured, Javadekar has an impressive score card to show off – 240 industrial projects given the green nod in the first 90 days in office!

Once hailed as a pioneer in climate change initiatives, the Indian PM has decided not to share the stage with world leaders from 120 countries, including US President Barack Obama, at one of the largest and biggest summit on climate change. Even after the UN Secretary General made it very public that he “really wanted” PM Narendra Modi to participate in this crucial meet. It’s not just his absence at the global leaders’ summit that suggests his possible change of heart, but also his confused remarks while engaging with India’s young leaders on Teacher’s Day. “We should also ask is this climate change or have we changed,” the PM told a concerned future leader.

A country that has been ravaged by the severe lashes of nature’s fury today stands at the crossroads and has to decide what path it wants to tread upon.

It has been well established that global warming caused by excessive use of fossil fuels is the force behind extreme weather conditions; India has been slacking on protecting the lives and livelihoods of Indians from the catastrophe called climate change. By its coal addiction for meeting its energy needs, India is not only contributing further to global warming, but also depriving rural India from electricity. The age of cheap coal is over in bringing economic growth. India needs to wake up to cleaner and greener renewable sources of energy to bring sustainable and equitable development.

“It’s not too late for India to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change. As youngsters, if the government gives us the right to choose who we want to represent us, then they should also care about the issues we are raising. I strongly believe when people come out in large numbers on the streets of Delhi, the government will be forced to wake from their slumber and take note of our demands.”

Nandini finishes her impassionate speech to the gathered young protesters, urging them to join the world’s biggest march to fight climate change on 20th September. “The response from my peers is very positive,” beams Nandini.

The writer is Media Manager, Climate & Energy, at Greenpeace India.

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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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