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What Makes Us Humans Treat Nature With Such Disdain

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Look at the animals kindly,
and they will see.
Talk to them gently,
and they will listen.

A.D.Williams

We, as humans, are all part of nature. But we treat ourselves as separate entities. We have created boundaries on land as if we are the only living beings on this planet. I just want to ask, “Who gave us (humans) an authority to govern and make decisions about the life of animals and plants?”

1773- Regulating Act, provide for a government, civil and criminal laws in India and from here the British govt started interfering in the affairs of the Indians.

1974- Establishment of the Supreme court in Calcutta. A Western judicial form imposed on rural India.

The Act for the Betterment of India, 1858, the Divide and Rule Policy, Partition of Bengal, suppression of the people in the name of prevention of plague in the 1900s and many more laws and decisions were taken by the Britishers to fulfill their interest and get more control over the masses because for them we were anything but humans. And of late, we humans have forgotten how to treat animals kindly.

We have regulations like the Wildlife Conservation Act 1972, UN Convention On Climate Change, UNEP, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, The Animal Protection Act, 1962, in Africa, existing for the environment today. For example, the Wildlife Conservation Act Of 1972, creates a man-made classification between the animals and plant species which ultimately creates an imbalance between their population, their habitats, and other species on which they survive. Most ironic laws are the afforestation ones. For your interest, you can harm the environment, you can cut the trees and make hundreds of species homeless “but” you have to “plant” new trees so that a forest would be there just for argument’s sake.

Britishers exploited us, stole our resources, put a restriction on us, divided us and made us believe that Indians are inferior to Britishers. Now today, what’s the difference between us and the Britishers of the colonised times? Nothing. We took animals and the entire nature for granted and started regulating them. Encroachments of humans today are more like the provinces made by the Britishers when they were in India. These laws and conventions above may look as the positive steps for the “conservation” of nature just as Britishers used to look towards their laws made for us. Indirectly by implementing these laws, we are now intervening in the lives of animals and plants, which we humans don’t have the right to do in the first place.

Do we humans entirely know about the life cycle of every creature on this planet? Do we even know about our planet entirely? The answer is surely a big ‘no’. Then how can we decide where which animal should live and even try to control its population? We think very childishly that if two persons can live happily and without any worry in two separate countries then why not the animals? They can live very happily in demarcated areas made especially for them like wildlife sanctuaries and the national parks. And at the same time, we warn them that, “hey buddy! look, we may have encroached upon your habitats and your natural corridors but now don’t try to enter into my area. These attitudes towards nature are already having adverse impacts. The conflicts between the animals and humans in the states like Jharkhand, Assam, and Karnataka really disturb me sometimes. What I am trying to say is, we don’t have any authority over any creature on this planet. The very mindset of ours that animals are inferior to us and that makes humans responsible for regulating their lives, is wrong.

And now what I am suggesting is, beyond coexistence i.e. “Acceptance”. Why can’t humans accept animals and plants as their neighbours, their friends, just like we would treat a person next door? I know there are many limitations as animals would not be able to live in such a congested and polluted environment like us. But a classic example of acceptance is the Magsaysay award winner, Mr Prakash Baba Amte. He lives with his animals near to a small jungle in a Gadchiroli district in the state of Maharashtra. He and his wife treat wild animals as their children and take care of them on a daily basis. Well, there may be many people around the world like Mr Amte, who have accepted nature as a part of daily life. But who has seen the future? Power is a very dynamic phenomenon. Today we humans have this power and control over animals and in fact, the most of nature. But in future, there may be a “Quit This Planet” movement by other living beings just like Indians had a “Quit India” Movement to protest against Britishers in 1942. Let’s hope we never come to such a day.

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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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