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Let’s Bid An Environment-Friendly Adieu To The Elephant God

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We all love our Ganesha and happily celebrate him in a grand way across the country every year. On the last day of this ten-day festival, we bid farewell to the idols of the elephant god by immersing them into nearby water bodies. The immersions of the Ganesha idols were not environmentally detrimental until they were clay idols with no paint or glitter. The Ganesha idols these days are made of Plaster of Paris, quoted with layers of synthetic paint and several other non-degradable decorative materials. In our joy of celebrating lord Ganesha, we forget all environmental norms and trash our water bodies with inexcusable amounts of non-degradable trash.

This sparks off a debate on religion vs environment- can anything be done to curb environment pollution caused by religious celebrations?

Celebratory, ceremonial waste of the modern day is nothing close to the natural options used 2 – 3 decades ago. The waste generated today is toxic, non-degradable, and expensive to clean and treat. The Plaster of Paris forms a thick layer in the water bodies thereby steadily contaminating the already polluted waterways of modern India. This leads to several health hazards, loss of biodiversity and most importantly pollutes the water habitat in some cases beyond repair.

All celebrations pertaining to any religion should sincerely take into consideration possible environmental damages. Preventing the damage is a more comfortable option compared to curing it. Not all efforts can be proactive, there needs to be a reactive approach to tackling water body pollution because of the POP idols. One such an effort is the massive voluntary clean up drive organised by the Environmentalist Foundation of India (E.F.I). Across 11 cities in the country E.F.I organised a voluntary drive to remove POP idols from water bodies.

An annual effort aimed at the clearing of POP idols from lakes, rivers and shoreline attracts several volunteers to bring about a change. India’s next-gen is optimistic-realistic and action-oriented. The volunteers and coordinators of this multicity clean up were all in their late teens or early 20s. These young nation builders had no social divisions in mind and were only focused on reviving freshwater bodies. Their idea was to clear out the POP idols and other celebratory non-degradable waste.

The Cities Where The Magic Unfolded:

Coimbatore: Kumarasamy-Muthannan Lake Clean Up saw 1-ton non-degradable trash being removed from the water body in 2 hours. Young engineers Anandh and Ashwath who led the initiative have been pioneering the cause of reviving this lake for over two years now.

Delhi: Portions of the Yamuna Bank were cleared of nearly two tonnes of non-degradable trash by the volunteers. Ms. Riya who is in her third year of college spearheaded a massive effort in roping in volunteers from all walks of life to ensure a collaborative effort in cleaning the water body.

Before clean up

After clean up

Pune: Gaurav, a student-resident of Pune has put in sincere efforts over the months to ensure that the residents of this knowledge hub proactively volunteer towards reviving the water bodies. His sustained efforts ensured that a ton of garbage from the Mutha riverbanks was removed with support from several volunteers.

Hyderabad: The IT nerve centre of India is also home to some unique lakes. Saathvik, a young nation builder has been working closely with resident welfare groups in Hyderabad city to ensure the revival of the Kapra Lake in the city. His efforts duly supported by adults from the locality ensured the removal of POP idols from the immersion ponds established in the lake.

Pondicherry: Madhan, a young environmental engineer supported by a visiting tourist Zorian, alongside Vimal a nature enthusiast from Pondicherry ensured that many residents of the town extended their support in clearing all celebratory waste from the Rock beach. The joint effort resulted in the clearing of two tons of garbage from the beach.

Bangalore: Lalith Rahul is as worried as all Bangalore citizens are about the city’s lakes. But he doesn’t stop at being worried, he has initiated a campaign of cleaning the Devasandra, Kithaganur lakes. The Ulsoor lake being the hotspot for POP immersions, saw Rahul and his team of volunteers gear up to remove close to half a ton of trash from the prestigious lake in the city.

Chennai: The Foreshore Estate beach in Chennai was abuzz with all immersion efforts. As the idols were immersed a team of young environmentalists such as Shri Krishna, Shanmuganathan and Aravindh Krishnan with a large supporting group of volunteers, ensured the removal of nearly two tons of garbage from the pristine beach.

The municipal corporations, conservancy workers and nature enthusiasts came together to clean up their city post the celebrations. Their love for Ganesha is greater than those who used these POP idols. They removed the POP debris from the water bodies and retained the Ganesha in their thought beyond prayers. A true celebration of the Ganesha was in helping clean up the celebratory waste left behind. These young nation builders have just shown us the way for a greener, cleaner tomorrow.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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