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In The Age Of Colas, Jamia Students Found A Way To Produce A Healthy Alternative

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By Sakshi Gupta:

Delhi, India’s capital territory, witnesses extreme weather conditions – from tropical summers to chilly winters. The scorching summer is lucrative for higher consumption of carbonated/aerated beverages. These drinks are sold on a large scale as the common population eagerly guzzles these popular poisons. Unfortunately, these seemingly refreshing drinks are major causes of innumerable chronic diseases. Regular consumption of carbonated beverages can lead to obesity compounded with an increased risk of heart problems as well as diabetes.

The consumption of soft drinks has become a highly visible public health and policy issue in recent times. This ignited the idea of introducing the consumers in Delhi to a healthy alternative to these artificial drinks. In an effort to do so, we initiated Project Imdaad. Through our project, we aimed to develop a nutritional alternative to sugary carbonated beverages. Thus, we came up with ‘Kerala Kan’, a refreshing beverage made from the Indian sarsaparilla, a type of indigenous root from Kerala. The roots contain medicinal properties and are cultivated by a skilled community. ’Sarasaparilla’ works like magic especially due to its cooling effects which protects one from common summer ailments and acts as a natural blood purifier.

With the help of a few of our team members from Kerala, we came across the Kudumbashree community living in a village near Malaba. This community includes a group of middle aged women who are economically weak and under-employed yet highly motivated to work. They are mostly skilled in the process of extracting the syrup from the roots of the sarsaparilla.

The geographical restrictions associated with their rural location hinders their accessibility to the market and availability of resources to generate economic benefits. Furthermore, the roots are highly endangered and exploited by the locals for monetary benefits which adds up to the reasons due to which these women never had a chance to utilize their skills to earn a deserving income.

We, at Enactus JMI approached them to join hands with us, connecting them to another community of women who hail from the Jasola locality of Okhla, South Delhi. These women belong to marginalised families with very limited access to monetary resources and other amenities that one would count for a good living.

We connected these vibrant communities and classified them into different work groups. The ground work is majorly executed by the women in Kudumbashree, Kerala, and the women in Jasola, Delhi, then deliver the final product to our respective customers.

The roots are gently extracted by the Kudumbashree women and transported to Delhi. The women in Delhi, then further process them into a semi-fluid syrup potion. This syrup is purified and used to make the ‘Kerala Kan’ by the women of the Jasola community.

The women of Kudumbashree and Jasola are now more independent as they now have a stable source of income which helps them break away from the shackles of erratic income and underpaid jobs. The Jasola women are now employed and more skilled than before. This has helped them optimize their potential and uplift themselves and their families.

Apart from this, the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), JMI (under MSME) trained them for three months in entrepreneurial skills and small scale business development.

These members were then involved in tasks such as syrup extraction, marketing, selling of syrup at various canteens, shops and cafes. As a result of intense training and rigorous hardwork they have been successful in selling the product in various canteens and cafés as well as events across Delhi and its neighbouring states.

The word ‘Imdaad’ means to help. Through our project, we strive to help our communities by establishing a potential link between them and a demand-and-supply chain through which both the communities are benefited. The social enterprise promoted the ‘Make in India’ scheme by generating employment opportunities , providing the community members with a new skill set and creating an inter-state sustainable business bridge. Thus, we at Enactus Jamia Millia Islamia, created a relationship on economical and social grounds between two distant communities and shall continue to strive to further keep up the good will.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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