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Do You Want To Live In A City Where ‘Fresh Air’ Is For Sale?

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By Arun Ag:

I came across an interesting piece of news recently. A Canadian firm named Vitality Air is all set to sell fresh air in India. Each breath from this fresh air can costs INR 12.50 only. This price is indeed really cheap when it is compared to drinking water which costs 20 rupees per bottle. They claim that this will really help the capital’s citizens, although, it must be noted that New Delhi is no longer the world’s most polluted city. As per the 2016 WHO report, Delhi is now the 11th most polluted city globally. Thanks for the effort by the Delhi Government. Besides, Delhi soon also claim to be the first Indian city to breathe fresh air from cans!

The sad news is that four of our cities have made into the top 10 list. Gwalior and Allahabad decorate the second and third positions while Patna and Raipur own the sixth and seventh respectively. 17 of the 100 proposed Smart Cities figure on the list. The residents of these cities breathe poison day and night. This has comparatively increased the health and related expenditure of the population along with the concern for life expectancy and infant health.

According to the report, enormous and continuous increase of motor vehicles is the major causal factor behind this pathetic condition of the cities. The urbanisation of the country is on a rapid pace. The UN DESA 2014 report estimates that by 2050, India is projected to add 404 million urban dwellers. People tend to move to the cities in search of better prospects in all spheres including job, education, housing, health facilities and other amenities. They’re basically in search of better living conditions. But are our cities really livable?

The most pivotal point which has to be discussed about livability is the use of private motor vehicles. Indian cities are famous for vehicle usage and fuel emissions. We can see that many of the urban households have several vehicles of their own. In some families, each and every member possesses their own vehicle. These vehicles fill up our roads thus creating various issues including severe traffic jams. But usually, we don’t care about the quantity of emissions from those vehicles. The toxic emissions from them contaminate our air which leads to the rest of us being affected with various respiratory and other diseases.

But mostly people tend to ignore that fact and purchase new models of cars and two-wheelers so that they can maintain or raise their ‘status’ in society. They are unaware or knowingly avoid the fact that they are themselves killing the very environment we live in. This makes them diseased and forces them to spend more on medication to restore or sustain their health. Thus, in a way, they themselves build their graveyard.

Usually, we see people protesting for better quality roads for smoother and safe vehicle movement, but how often do we see protests for better footpaths and walking facilities? This is a matter of concern given the increased usage of motor vehicles. Citizens have forgotten to walk nowadays. Private motor vehicles completely dominate the roads which make pedestrian movement a fearsome adventure. And it seems the authorities do not pay much attention to pedestrian infrastructure.

School children, pregnant mothers, disabled and senior citizens constitute the community which usually suffers from this pedestrian-excluded development. It is really hard to walk in the Indian cities for any of these people. When foreign nations create more and more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, we are still jiggling at infancy. A good chunk of pedestrian accidents is possibly caused due to the lack of proper pedestrian infrastructure and crossing facilities.

The next major concern about the livability of our cities are shrinking parks and open public spaces. Most of us would not like to walk on a busy road where vehicles rush to and fro with nasty horn sounds and polluted surroundings. This marks the importance of parks and open spaces. Public parks are the most affordable entertainment and leisure option for the masses. They provide a space to play, walk, jog, relax and rejuvenate. Parks are the one stop point for spending quality time with our family. Open spaces are also the oxygen factories of urban areas.

In the present and ongoing scenario of the development of India, parks and open spaces are heavily encroached upon to build skyscrapers, convention centers and shopping malls. It reduces the space for the unprivileged citizens of the city to enjoy and spend their leisure time along with the provision of clean air after their daily exposure to the polluted atmosphere. There is also a much wider impact when the trees are cut off, which diminishes the release of oxygen. How can we sustain ourselves without oxygen? We appear to be moving into an era when everybody would have to wear an oxygen mask to live. Just think about it. Does Vitality Air need us, or vice versa?

Car-free days are events which can promote awareness about building a livable environment for humanity. It tries to spread the message that livability is not only the rush of motor vehicles, building of skyscrapers but also having cycle paths, good and well-maintained footpaths, wide and equipped public parks and open spaces. Car-free days have been conducted in various parts of our country. More and more such events should be initiated all around the nation, not only for us but for our future ones too.

Once we had plenty of drinking water in our ponds, now we have canned water. Now, do we have fresh air? We have fresh air cans!

Featured image source: Priyanka Parashar/Mint via Getty Images.

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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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