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Climate Change: The Time To Think Has Passed, It’s Time To Act!

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old environmental activist from Sweden, showed the world what a young person’s determination could do. In her own words, she started “striking from school to protest inaction on climate change.” In 2018, Sweden witnessed heat waves and wildfires, in what was said to be its hottest summer in 262 years. This prompted Thunberg’s decision to not attend school until after the Swedish general election. She demanded that Sweden should reduce its carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement. She protested by sitting outside the Swedish Parliament Riksdag in Stockholm, for three weeks during school hours, with the sign “school strike for climate”.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

After the general elections, she continued her strike but only on every Fridays, holding up a sign demanding immediate action to address climate change. Her solitary activism—aided with social media and the efforts of traditional media persons and reportage—sparked an international movement called “Fridays for Future“. School students in different countries take time off from school on Fridays, so that they can participate in demonstrations against the inadequacy of adults to sufficiently address the climate change crisis.

Thunberg has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, so “most things are black or white” for her, she says. She doesn’t view her diagnosis as a disability. Rather, she views it as her superpower. She holds all world leaders directly accountable for the environmental crisis that we are currently facing. She doesn’t beat around the bush when admonishing developing nations such as the United States of America, Australia, her own country Sweden about their carbon footprint and their failure to do something substantial to reduce it.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

She is rightly angered by these countries’ approach to increasing their economic growth at the cost of sacrificing the futures of children like her and the generations to come after her. To those who believe that she should stay in school, rather than protesting on the streets, she makes a very compelling argument in response, “But why should any young person be made to study for a future when no one is doing enough to save that future? What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts given by the finest scientists are ignored by our politicians?”

Thunberg wrote an article for The Guardian in which she said, “According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes.” She understands fully well that we, as humans, have wreaked havoc upon this planet. For the sustenance of the human race and for that of all the innumerable flora and fauna, it is imperative that we urgently enact systemic changes to fix the problem of global warming.

Thunberg is not as harsh in her criticism of developing nations because she recognizes the need for such nations to develop infrastructure, to improve the standard of living of their citizens. She thinks that developed nations need to take the lead in cutting down on their emissions, instead of passing the baton to developing nations. But the awareness that our political leaders have failed us, in safeguarding our environment, is a crucial and universal one. There exists a pressing need on our part as citizens to take matters into our own hands, to push our elected representatives to be proactive, not reactive.

Take, for instance, the protests surrounding the chopping down of 2,700 trees in the Aarey Milk Colony region of Mumbai. Citizens have gathered week after week (on Sundays) to express their vehement disapproval of the BMC’s (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) move to do so in order to build a Metro car shed. The region is often referred to as Mumbai’s last green lung. “Save Aarey” protests have seen thousands of Mumbaikars of all ages, braving the rains, turning up in a bid to show solidarity towards each other and to protect Aarey’s trees.

Citizen protestors have consistently demanded (during protests, a public hearing, and a townhall meeting) that the proposed shed be shifted to other sites outside Aarey, but the BMC and the MMRC (Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation) are not willing to budge. In addition to felling such a large number of trees, the proposed shed will also end up displacing Adivasi villagers who live in tribal hamlets in Aarey. Aarey also acts as a soak pit which soaks excess water overflowing from the Mithi river. This reduces flooding in the city.

Pic by Nimish Malde. Via Twitter

Organizations such as the Aarey Conservation group, Muse Foundation, and other informal networks of citizens such as WhatsApp groups have done considerable work in terms of raising public awareness about the issue. People have been using social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook extensively, to spread the word regarding “Save Aarey” and to talk about why saving Aarey’s trees is important.

It is interesting to note that the Mumbai chapter of “Fridays for Future” has also been actively campaigning to save Aarey’s trees. One can sign a petition titled “Mumbai’s climate and ecology in danger” on change.org and/or attend the protests in Aarey to show their support for the cause. Ignoring citizens’ popular demands could prove to be a foolhardy decision on the part of the Maharashtra government.

The trees at Aarey face the threat of being cut up. China has industrial towns termed as “cancer villages” because of high incidence rates due to terrible water and air pollution, the rainforests in Amazon were burning some months ago; this indicates that the time to think has passed. At the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2019, in Davos, Thunberg said that “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”

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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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