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Here’s How Climate Change Is Impacting The Lives Of Local Vendors In Delhi

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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.
A ‘bun tikki’ vendor at IP College for Women. Image provided by the author.

Informal economies have been considerably neglected in the deliberations about climate change. This holds true as the primary policy-making of the country is focused on the formal sectors. On the other hand, informal economic systems like construction and local vendors are highly marginalised and impoverished in the existing developing world. Climate change has further added to their burden. It has already led to adverse impacts on jobs and work productivity, and these consequences are expected to become more notable in the coming decades.

Heat stress is a severe threat to human health and, hence, to productivity and well-being. By 2030 the equivalent of higher than 2% of total working hours globally is predicted to be lost every year, either because it is too warm to work or because workers have to work at slower speeds. In Southern Asia and Western Africa, the productivity decline may even reach 5%. Extreme heat levels exacerbate inequality between wealthy and developing countries, and between communities within the same nation.

Even if there is a probability of curbing global warming by the turn of the centenary to 1.5 degree Celcius over pre-industrial levels, the acquired financial damage due to heat stress is anticipated to touch $2,400 billion by 2030. If nothing is done now to alleviate climate change, these losses will be much higher as global temperatures are set to rise even further towards the end of the century.

The influence of high temperatures on informal-sector workers who are among the underprivileged in developing countries, and are more exposed to high heat than any other group, is mostly unknown, which adds to the problem. This comprises people who work with no formal contracts, including construction workers and manual farm labourers. Simply put, when it gets hot, it’s difficult, indeed dangerous, to perform heavy labour outdoors, leading many people to stop working when temperatures soar. This, in turn, affects their livelihoods and income because of their lower productivity.

Table: Working hours lost to heat stress, by sector and country, Southern Asia, 1995 and 2030 (ILO)

I have a vegetable stall to earn my livelihood. However, the heat affects the vegetation, and sporadic rainfall affects the yield. I have to work harder now but am unable to earn the same income because of grocery markets selling vegetables in ventilated stores where the vegetables do not rot. Thus, increasing the competition for us,” said Shanker, a vendor, blocking the sun from his face with the back of his hand.


Similarly, Raju a local food stall owner finds it difficult to get customers in the heat. “I have had to install some table fans and shade to be able to endure the extreme heat in Delhi.” His famous bun tikki in front of I.P College for women has taken a hit because of the growing health concerns of students regarding the ingredients used. However, the owner has been able to cope by adding new dishes that are easy to make. Moreover, his bunta (a drink) is a breath of fresh air for students.

Mithi, a florist, expressed similar concerns regarding the extreme weather conditions. She has to continuously spray water and pesticides to get rid of mosquitoes and keep the flowers fresh in the heat. “I had planned to open a shop after saving some money. However, I am unable to do so as my product gets spoiled often, which makes me encounter losses,” she said, fanning her flowers. Earlier, Damodar had a chole bhature stall, and now as a side business, he opened a lemonade stall that works well in summers. “When I developed this idea, I thought it would cause more expenditure, but the surplus income I generate helps me to sustain my family.”

In all, local vendors have had to upgrade according to the conditions, thus utilising and adapting to their environments. However, in the long run, a climate change action strategy needs to be developed in cognisance with the informal sectors. According to a study, IndiaSpend reported that India, where one in every seventh person on the planet lives, has no national research on the impact of climate change, although about 600 million people are at risk from its effects. The country’s aim to create a national data to survey climate change effects and have the government act on the mandate has been developed.

Other resolutions do exist, like the fundamental alteration of rural economies which should be particularly advanced so that fewer agricultural workers are imperiled to soaring temperatures, and so that a more limited bodily effort has to be spent in such situations. Other necessary policy actions that can assist are skills development, the improvement of an enabling ecosystem for sustainable projects, public investment in infrastructure, and enhanced integration of developing countries into global commerce.

At the workplace level, improved information about on-site climate conditions, the arrangement of work-wear and equipment, and technological advancements can make it easier for workers and their managers to cope with higher temperatures. Employers and workers should review together how to adjust working hours, in addition to utilising other occupational safety and health measures. Accordingly, a cultural dialogue is an appropriate tool for promoting working conditions on a warming planet.

This post has been written by a YKA Climate Correspondent as part of #WhyOnEarth. Join the conversation by adding a post here.
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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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