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“People Who Talk About Saving The Planet, Do Little Else. They Just Talk.”

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By Anjali Nambissan:

“People who talk about saving the planet, do little else. They just talk.” My brother-in-law and I were engaged in a heated ideological argument about ‘tree-huggers’ (his generalisation about people with an interest in sustainable development or climate change). The moment he said that, the United Nations-led climate talks jumped into my head. The over 20 year long annual exercise of trying to come to terms with who needs to do what, so that our Earth doesn’t become a super-heated ball of deserts and storms.

climate change talks

These superstars of give-and-take are tasked with coming up with a miraculous agreement that shall:

a. Put every country in this world into categories – developed, developing, least developed and so on. Based on their categories, countries have to provide money, come up with a number and promise to reduce carbon emissions by that much.

b. Decide how much of the money put together will go to which countries to be used for adaptation to climate change.

c. Go beyond adaptation to coping with the effects of climate change and distinguish between how much is loss, and what constitutes damage.

d. Be legally binding. So the negotiators also have to thrash out terms for violation and penalties.

And they have to work all of this out and put it to vote by December 2015 in Paris. How many of us have our money on, ‘What? Say the first thing again?’?

Go, Geneva, Gone

Over the last week, national representatives and delegates gathered at the Palais des Nations in scenic Geneva, Switzerland, to yet again, talk about the ‘outline of the draft text’ that was drawn up in Lima last year. It will take four meetings between now and Paris to change this ‘outline of a draft text (which is 87 pages long and basically [includes][Everything][Everyone][wanted]) to an actualnegotiating text (which will be put to vote as an agreement) and I hear the next one is in Bonn, Germany in June. Coming back to the negotiations at hand, the eighth part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) concluded on Friday. But why should we care?

I’m not sure.

Though the draft text was put together in record time due to the enthusiasm and involvement of the negotiators, it isn’t very remarkable. Perhaps negotiators are trying to win back some goodwill for the UN climate process after the poor show put up during and after the COP 10, at Copenhagen in 2009. In the Geneva Text, as it is called, there is some consensus amongst Mexico, Uganda, Chile, Bolivia, Tuvalu, the EU and other countries to include ‘strong language on human rights’. So, different sections of the text mention the rights of indigenous people and gender equality.

But it isn’t anywhere near to being a coherent, standalone agreement. It is just a negotiating text that does not “indicate agreement as to the structure or organization of the agreement, or which provisions should appear in the agreement versus in decisions adopted in Paris or thereafter”.

Now, the scientific group has to go through it, the loss and damage guys will vet it in Warsaw, the adaptation plans of each country will be scrutinised in June, the finance guys have to put in some numbers and finally, it has to be okayed by the political bosses in Paris.

The World Wants to Know

Everyone from Barack Obama to Arnold Schwarzenegger has given India an earful about cutting fossil fuel dependence and doing something about climate change. And since the US and China signed a historic emissions reducing treaty, right before the Lima conference last year, the world is turning to next-in-line emitter- India, to deliver some spectacular emissions reduction targets.

But India is really in no position to take on ambitious emissions cuts and move away from fossil fuels, what with a large poor population to provide for. International pressure on India to take up ambitious emission cuts because of its growing economy, sheer size and population is not new.

India, along with other parties, maintains that countries historically responsible for the carbon already up in the air take on higher emissions cuts, and more responsibility, than those not-so-responsible for existing carbon emissions. So that countries take on cuts with ‘Common but Differentiated Responsibility’ (CBDR).

More meetings

First, the Heads of States will gather in Addis Ababa in July to discuss Financing for Development. Then head to crowd the United Nations General Assembly in New York to talk about a post-2015 sustainable development process in September.

What I don’t understand is why we need three separate tangential meetings when without finance or sustainable development we cannot prepare for climate change or avert related disaster. If climate change kicks our butt, we will need ever increasing amounts of finance to even dream of sustainable development. And climate-proof development is essentially sustainable development. You get the picture, right? It is all an interconnected web of issues.

But we can always hope that the outcomes of all these meetings will have a productive bearing on the outcome of the crucial Paris meeting.

And Paris should be interesting, otherwise too. It is the first time that Prime Minister Modi will be looked upon to make some decisions regarding climate change on the international stage, with all his newfound friends watching closely.

P.S. Click here, if you might enjoy a cute account of a reporter following a Swiss delegate around at the Geneva climate change conference 2015.

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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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