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India Has Witnessed More Than 75,000 Deaths Due To Climate Disasters Since 2000

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India has witnessed more than 75,000 deaths and suffered economic losses worth INR 4 lakh crore, since 2000. In 2018, India was ranked as the 4th  most badly affected nation in the UN report on economies worst affected by climate disasters, incurring a loss of nearly USD 80 billion over the last 20 years. Experts predict that the intensity of climate-related disasters like floods, droughts and cyclones is set to increase in the future due to global warming. The cumulative impact of surviving a disaster and fighting poverty is a reality for many Indians.

How can the vulnerable equip themselves against the wrath of nature? Image via Getty

Preparedness, adaptation and economic stability. Adaptation and economic stability are processes that will impact the everyday lives of India’s millions of poor and marginalised people, helping them strengthen their ability to cope with disasters. Preparedness is a process that will equip vulnerable populations to survive disasters with dignity.

#IndiaPrepares 2019 Campaign By CARE India

Theme: Reduce the number of disaster-affected persons by equipping them with precautionary and survival skills.

CARE India launched the fourth edition of #IndiaPrepares, a campaign emphasising the need to increase India’s preparedness for natural and man-made disasters. This campaign is an opportunity for the entire nation to equip themselves for various emergencies, in an all-inclusive manner. Using social media and news media, the campaign has been increasing audience’s awareness on impact of climate change on disasters; simple precautions one can take before, during and after a disaster strikes; and disaster-ready infrastructure and dwellings.

Recommendations of CARE India’s Disaster Management Team

  • Have a plan ready: Identify risks based on disasters that can impact your family and prepare a simple and comprehensive disaster management plan.
  • Early warning system: Adopt a distinct warning system like whistle or bell to immediately alert all family members if and when a disaster strikes.
  • Identification of safe spaces: Arrange for safe spaces surrounding your homes, which can be easily reached, in case of a disaster. It should be accessible by all members of the family at any time during the day. Assign a safe place for your pets too. Local animal shelters and vets can be contacted to identify safe havens.
  • Knowledge of emergency skills: Learn basic emergency skills that can save someone’s life, such as administering first aid correctly and using the fire extinguisher.
  • Alternate contact person for SOS: Ensure that every family member has an alternate contact person’s name and phone number residing in a different location, which is easily accessible.
  • Emergency kit: Keep a family emergency kit ready, containing basic items like first aid, radio, torch, knife, rope, bedsheet, dry food, water and vital medicines. Store this kit near the exit so that in case of a disaster, any family member can carry the emergency kit while heading to safety.
  • Following official warnings: Most importantly, stay away from rumours and obtain information from official sources. Avoid inputs from social media and do not to spread any information without verification from relevant authorities.

Gender And Disasters

The issue of gender disparity in India is interconnected with issues of social exclusion and caste-based oppression, religion, culture and geography. The interplay of these complex social issues during disasters worsen the ability of certain vulnerable groups, especially women and girls from marginalised communities to lead dignified lives and engage in income generating activities. The deeprooted norms of sexual division of labour create conditions that result in women lacking certain skills. In addition, due to the internalisation of caring and self-sacrificing roles, the women of a family end up ensuring the safety of children and elderly in emergency situations with limited concern about their own safety and well-being.

Priority must be given to providing women and adolescent girls with comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare services without discrimination. Image via Getty

There is a pressing need to relook at the design, approach and framework of disaster preparedness and response. The need is to empower women and girls by ensuring their equal participation in the civil, political, economic and social spheres. They should also be equally involved in decision making. Social accountability processes should be used to bring women’s voices into the design, monitoring and accountability of resilience and preparedness efforts, in dialogue between government authorities and local communities.

In addition, access to livelihood opportunities must be scaled up and expanded. Priority must be given to providing women and adolescent girls with comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare services without discrimination.

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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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