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How A Small Team And 10,000 Trees Transformed This Village In Maharashtra

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June 1, 2009

I have a new job. I’ve been newly appointed as Senior Manager – Agribusiness at Tilaknagar Industries Ltd. My job description is vague, but I’m told that I have to, among other things, work on improving the environment surrounding the factory in Shrirampur, Ahmednagar.

I am slightly anxious about working with an 80-year old company situated in a region completely unknown to me. Just as I am familiarizing myself with the organization and its system, I was told by an advisor that I was to plan the plantation of 1 lakh trees in Shrirampur on account of World Environment Day, which was on June 5.

Fresh from my experience of working on my farm and having planted at least 5000 fruit trees, I worked out the costings and presented to him. Judging his response, I didn’t think he had anticipated the magnitude and the subheadings for which costs needed to be borne.

Unable to bear the huge cost of planting 1 lakh trees, the target was changed to 10,000 trees. The next realisation was that unlike Konkan, where I had studied and worked for ten years, the rainfall in Ahmednagar is scanty. I farmed in a region which had an average of 3000 mm rainfall, whereas here, it was barely 300 mm. A lot of questions and doubts arose – How would we water the saplings? Who would do it and for how long?

A landscape officer helped procure saplings of forest trees from the nearby forest nursery. We celebrated the planting of the saplings with the local media involved and local dignitaries gracing the occasion. This was the company’s step towards a new avatar- a socially and environmentally conscious entity.

A fortnight later, we heard reports that almost all of the 10,000 saplings have been feasted upon by the local stray goats. Between thoughts of despair and regrets on not having foreseen this, I realized that it was a necessary lesson for some of us who thought they could just plant saplings and forget about them. What ensued was a systematic operation of raising the saplings in our nursery so that they grew taller than the reach of the goats and the creation of tree guards to protect the saplings. Local artisans made the tree guards in the form of bamboo mats, which we then tied around the saplings.

A private, organizational activity of tree plantation had now become a noticeable, obvious venture, with 10,000 tree guards lining the roads.

We interacted with the locals and urged them to take care of the trees surrounding their houses.We requested them to ward off goats and report to us if any sapling was eaten by them so that we could replant it. We employed a local young boy who ran a water tanker business by signing a monthly contract with him for watering and weeding the trees.

A lot of officials from the company were sceptical and mocked my team and me,  commenting that we were wasting money and this activity wouldn’t result in anything substantial. Fortunately, my team and I had the support of the advisor who had asked me to plant the trees. I worked at Tilaknagar Industries Ltd. for five years and the trees by the main road would always be something we all cared for.

January 2018

Last week, I visited the place after four years of quitting the job. Even before I witnessed it first hand, a friend told me that the trees I’d had fought for and planted have flourished into a forest. I had my doubts about it, thinking he may be exaggerating, but when I neared the place with nervous excitement, I was astounded.

I found myself staring at a canopy that befitted a forest. A road which was almost impossible to walk or ride on due to the soaring temperatures in summer has now become a haven for birds, stray animals and people. We actually did it – we turned a barren piece of land into a sanctuary of trees and life itself.

The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. I teared up while posing for pictures with the trees. Ex-team members shared stories of how the rainfall in the region is better than the nearby regions. This time, I knew they weren’t exaggerating. Change is possible, even when it is just a small team of people working towards it while fighting all odds and challenging the hierarchy of their superiors.

Change is us. It is you and me and the small actions that we take on a day to day basis. These small actions one day grow into a forest. My new year began on a more positive note than I’d have ever hoped for and I urge each one of you to stay positive.

Yes, it will be difficult. Yes, you will feel helpless. Yes, the odds will be stacked against you. Don’t give up, you and your resolve will prevail. I hope that you find the power of your resolve and stick to it because, in the end, the joy that change brings is glorious and unmatched by anything else.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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.

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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
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Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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