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How Two Students Are Doing Their Bit To Conserve The ‘Finite Resources On A Finite Earth’

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By Brototi Roy:

The Degrowth India Initiative was started in August this year after a series of informal discussions between Arpita and me, two students of Ecological Economics, who along with countless other researchers and activists across the globe accept that in a finite earth with finite resources, infinite monetary and population growth is an impossibility. This Initiative aims to provide a small platform to bring together people who are looking for alternatives to growth for a socially and ecologically just India.

Image source: Brototi Roy
Image source: Brototi Roy

In our quest for alternatives to growth we hosted a discussion session on “Alternatives to Growth” with the authors of Churning the Earth-The Making of Global India, Aseem Shrivastava and Ashish Kothari in Delhi last Monday. The reason why I am writing this article is because during the course of this article, both the authors, along with Dr. Rajeshwari Raina, who had co-organized the first symposium on Degrowth in India last year, had some very interesting stories of successful alternatives to growth that are being practised in different parts of our country, and which I think the youth of today needs to be made aware of.

Be it the farmers of Kerala who have voluntarily shunned fertilizer intensive cropping, despite being aware of the lower productivity of organic agriculture, and banned the production of high valued GM pepper due to its harmful effects on the soil health and environment, to Vani Murthy’s initiative in Bangalore which has converted several thousand households in the city to composter and rooftop gardeners, encouraging them to stop throwing out their wet waste, India, both in her cities and villages, has numerous examples of such bottoms-up approach which converges with the ideas of alternatives to growth. Local initiatives such as mobilization of people for the protection of the lakes of Bangalore, collective action by the villagers of Medha Lekha in Maharashtra to be the first village to be granted community forest rights, mobilization of Dalit women in Andhra Pradesh for sustainable farming and other such decentralized approaches for attaining better quality of life and land are examples of how the people of India have a long history of looking after themselves and their environment without any top-down approach being enforced upon them.

Yet, despite a plethora of decentralized movements which although do not conform to the formal definition of growth still continue to improve the social and ecological standards of an area, a large section of affluent India is increasingly dissociating itself from environmental well-being and social connections. What the society in general, and the youth in particular need to focus is to learn from these examples to find new ways which allows not just the poor and the vulnerable, but also other species (and the environment in general) to flourish by resisting against destructive development of one section of the society at the cost of others.

Arpita Bisht and Brototi Roy. Image source: Brototi Roy
Arpita Bisht and Brototi Roy. Image source: Brototi Roy

One of the key takeaways of the discussion was the need for a proactive youth movement which understands the social and ecological consequences of our greed for a technologically rich, yet culturally and socially degraded life. Dr. Shrivastava also pointed out that our current approach for solving the climate change problem and other environmental issues is to either depend on the international discussions and meets, or to expect decentralized action by tiny communities, whose lives and livelihoods are threatened. However, we keep forgetting that is a whole set of other levels of governance, such as the municipality, district level and state level governing bodies, who must be involved in these decision making and implementation of alternatives.
We also had a long discussion on the significance of the COP21 summit which will be held next week, and both Kothari and Shrivastava were of the opinion that the only thing this summit will be successfully implying is that we cannot depend on our national leaders alone to solve the dire ecological and social problems challenging the world today. You and I need to come together and work for a society of sufficiency, finding ways to reduce our individual ecological footprints and the footprints of the society as a whole.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report 2015, which was released earlier this year, was the final document, reporting the progress of the MDGs for the last fifteen years. Although, there were a quite a few positive outcomes, one of the biggest challenges that the world, as a whole, faces today is that of conflicts which poses the biggest threat for human development. The report acknowledged that “despite many successes, the poorest and most vulnerable people are being left behind”. The obvious question which then arises is that if we are consistent in our economic growth (as measured by our GDP), and yet the poor and the vulnerable are being left out, then who are the benefactors of this growth, and why is it not percolating (as proposed by the trickle-down effect theory) to the sections of the society that need it the most?

The answer is to this question lies in the fundamental flaw with our definition of economic growth. We measure economic growth in terms of flow of money, but what is the purpose of this flow is never put in the spotlight. To provide a simple example, the money earned from an increase in the sales of a consumer product, such as toys, adds to the economic growth just as much as the foreign aid received after a natural disaster strikes. The answer to the obvious question in the previous paragraph thus becomes self-evident once you familiarize yourself with the concept of economic growth as it is being currently viewed. A lot of scholars, researchers and activists in the West understood this early on, and in their quest for alternatives to growth, started a movement seeking radical change in an attempt to re-politicize the debate on the socio-ecological transformation, which was named the Degrowth Movement. India too, over the last few years, has seen an increasing number of scholars questioning the growth paradigm, and looking for alternatives to growth for a country with social and environmental justice.

For more information about the Degrowth India Initiative, refer to this link.

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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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