Slow Dancing In A Burning Room: The Climate Crisis And I

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If you know me, you know that there’s a 73% chance – at any given point in time – that I will be a ball of anxiety. You would also know that I’m a Statistics graduate, so I don’t make up the numbers. and that I write only in two scenarios – when I’m being told to, or when I’m despairing. This time it’s both.

The anxiety has found new reasons for popping up out of the blue. It was in March 2018 that there was a blip in the water supply of my locality. I frantically texted my friend from a few houses down to check up on the situation, and ended up voicing my concern about the possibility of water wars, troubling her (and others) with my doomsday fears for the next year and a half, until she told me to write this article and let it out. “I want you to write about what you told me, that the climate crisis terrifies you. It’s an important and ignored aspect. Writing about the effect on the world is old,” she told me. That’s how far down the line we are, I guess.

Of course, talking about even our individual feelings of doom is nothing new. The multitude of memes speaks to it, among other things. We’ve managed to joke through our collective knowledge of The End to such an extent that any response other than empathy and solidarity with my fears befuddles and almost enrages me. Yet, oddly enough, it’s not doomsday that I’m terrified of. Truth be told, it’s almost welcome. It’s the knowledge that it will be a slow and painful crawl till there that really gets to me. A slow burn, if you will.

Every time I’m happy with the weather, I have to take a moment to assess whether it’s meant to be that way, that particular time of year. I shudder every time I read about water scarcity. The impending rise in the frequency of natural disasters is the stuff of nightmares. The self-care that I so diligently rely on for sanity will cease to exist, in due course of time. Where will our safe spaces be, mentally or physically? We’re not getting an apocalypse so easily, in case you were fine (and delighted) with the idea of the grand finale of this freak show occurring much ahead of schedule. In fact, regardless of the stage of coping that you’re on, I see a dampener of contentment at every single one. We’re building up to more chaos, the standstill is still out of reach.

I have reason to believe that this sentiment is universal and not just something in my head. Well, in the non-literal sense, at least. It’s hard enough getting many to believe that the climate crisis is real, but I’d like to go a step further and say that climate grief is real too. We’re mourning the loss of our world as we know it. It’s the helplessness of knowing what’s coming and not having a way to steer clear of it through individual action.

My sister tells me that we’ll cross the bridge when we come to it, and to get on with my Master’s applications in the meantime. My friend tells me to ignore everything and thrive blindly in my microcosm – something I actually have the privilege of doing. Do people get it? It’s hard. It’s hard to go about work as usual when there’s a mass extinction of resources and creatures bearing down on us. It’s paralysing, to say the least. I mean, what good can my number-crunching do if it isn’t fast restoring the world we live in? If there ever was a time for me to identify as a nihilist, now is probably it.

In all honesty, I’m out of hope and action. I’ve given up and resigned to our collective fate, even as I fail to look past the personal. I guess, as a kid, I always believed that nothing would go wrong just as long as I closed the taps and switched off the lights. Now I realise that I’ve lived years with a false sense of control, and that doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t know if I can push through the disconcerting calm and complacency. I don’t know if I want to. It might be too little, too late.

Sometimes, I feel like taking a day off just to scream. Just to round up all the corporations and yell at them for polluting the oceans and the air, at the politicians for turning a blind eye to it, and at all the people still having children in a world that might not be feasibly habitable in the not-so-distant future. Then, with the energy I’d have left, I’d shout at everyone invalidating how incredibly real the feeling of terror is.

I haven’t done justice to my Statistics degree, have I? I have no numbers and graphs for you. I have emotion and no facts, and I’m very aware of the cranky lethargy I might be channeling. Maybe that’s the point of writing this, to seek an antidote to this despondency, to balance out crippling emotion with logic-driven movement, to find hope and romanticise the future that seems more and more like a non-possibility. I know I’m not alone in this.

Although I’ve never been one to respond well to a casually thrown “You’re not the only one!” or “Everyone’s going through it, everyone’s got problems,” right now I feel like it might be the only thing I might find solace in – that we are all, for better or for worse, in this together.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: jazbeck/Flickr; Wylve/Wikimedia Commons; Pixabay.
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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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