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Engineers And Bankers – You Can Be The New Climate Activists That India Needs

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By Shradha S:

In Naomi Klein’s recent book This Changes Everything’, she quotes Yotam Marom, an organizer with Occupy Wall Street in New York, who wrote in July 2013 – “The fight for the climate isn’t a separate movement; it’s both a challenge and an opportunity for all of our movements. We don’t need to become climate activists, we are climate activists. We don’t need a separate climate movement; we need to seize the climate moment.”

Climate protest in Dublin

Everyone is, or ideally should be, a climate activist; if not the out-on-the-streets-shouting-slogans type, at least the kind who is aware and advocates the need for addressing the issue of climate change. This however is not the current reality in our country where most people fall in distinct socio-economic classes and are on a rat-race for survival. To preach activism and climate change to this lot is definitely a dead pitch.

Yet, you encounter amazing statistics that make you hopeful of an underlying opportunity in India’s engineering and B-school graduates. Numbers show that India rolls out about a million students per year from various engineering and polytechnic colleges, and 4-5 lakh graduates from various B-schools including the IIMs. Out of this numbers, hardly 10-40 % are employed in proper pay jobs with any relation to their field. What the rest do is not much of a mystery.

Thanks to the trend of engineering students being fed up of the field being shoved down their heads and wanting to indulge their creative sides, as well as our mediocre education system, everyone wants to be a Chetan Bhagat now. While whether that is a good or bad call is a judgment I’d keep away from making, the fact is a lot of talent is being untapped or lured away into other menial every-day distractions.

We need writers and we need artists, but that is why there are some of us who go against the set norms and join places that train us to better in the fields we want to. If every engineer decides to give up their training and join these sectors, we are depriving trained personnel from their right to get employed at where they strived to be in. This is not the survival of the fittest.

Coming to the original theme of this rant is however quite different from the debate that I might have stirred up from the idea above. India’s current climate change stance is dictated by two main agendas – development and energy sector. That is quite an opportunity for young engineers and MBAs if they are actually passionate about making a difference in today’s world. How? Here’s the thought.

In spite of all the technology revolution, India’s power projects are still mostly conventional with excess pressure on generating power to satisfy electorates and zero focus on the environmental or landscape deterioration it causes. In one of my interviews with a senior engineer from the department of Power in a landslide prone state with over 60 upcoming hydropower projects, he points out how engineers are engineered to just build what the government asks of them; what happens to the ecology or the climate as a result is not their business.

As far as I know, every engineering course (apart from software and IT) is mandated to have an environmental education module in their learning system. What good does it do if they actually don’t make good use of this? I feel that every engineer who’s involved in various construction and power projects that significantly alter our landscapes has a responsibility to safeguard the interests of what the future generation might face as a consequence. If our engineers (and architects) step up to take responsibility for a climate-smart working style and not just shy away from what ignorant bosses ask them to, just because they are uninterested in the field their parents forced them to take, it will be a giant leap for all the climate activists out there in the world.

The same goes for all investment bankers and money people. If you could create markets and convince shareholders to invest in renewable energy in local markets (after of course, finding a way to go around without violating any of the WTO’s grandiose free trade regulations), you are helping the society to take a positive step towards building a green future. The market dictates that currently leave most of us still stuck to conventional fossil fuels and mining activities can be slowly brought to a minimum without having to suffer from serious economic losses.

The fossil fuel divestment campaign has been active around the globe, more recently endorsed by the Stanford professors in a call to ask the University to cut off its direct investments and endowments to coal mining companies. This is what is happening around the world slowly, and something we in India need to bring attention to.

If they can, why can’t we?

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  1. Suraj

    Let alone IT and software, NONE of the engineering disciplines except, of course, civil engineering has any emphasis on environmental impacts. I’m a mechanical engineering student and no body knows this better than me – that we’re in fact the biggest villians when it comes to environment responsibility. The 4-year curriculum never seems to go beyond petrol and diesel engines for automobiles. And in the end, getting a job in the automobile & oil sectors are the only two “prestigious” options we’re bombarded with.

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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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