BRICS Summit 2019: The Conflict Between Proposed Growth And The Need For Sustainability

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Prime Minister, Narendra Modi  recently attended the 11th BRICS summit in Brasilia on Wednesday. BRICS primarily comprises five countries namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Modi has described the just-concluded summit as ‘very productive’ in terms of cementing ties in trade, innovation, technology and culture. A special focus has been put on futuristic subjects that will lead to deeper cooperation to benefit the people of our respective nations.

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The new areas of BRICS cooperation spearheaded by Brazil, primarily comprise of strengthening of cooperation on science, technology and innovation, enhancement of cooperation on digital economy, invigoration of cooperation on the fight against transnational crime, especially against organised crime, money laundering and drug trafficking, and encouragement to the rapprochement between the New Development Bank and the BRICS Business Council.

Mr Modi assured of India’s full cooperation towards the multilateral financial institutions in promoting global growth. Also, he called for the opening of the Regional branch of the New Development Bank in India. Further, he suggested BRICS Business Council create a roadmap to achieve the 500 billion dollar intra-BRICS trade target by the next summit.

Now, if we carefully look into the main theme of the summit, economic growth for an innovative future, we will see a lot of hurdles associated with climate change coming up. So far in India, the climate crisis has worsened significantly, and no concrete measure has been designed to combat the same. So in this scenario, it is difficult to estimate whether the proposed agenda of development will not interfere further. It can also be anticipated that the resources utilised to ease out the environmental conservation will affect the overall allocation required to achieve the desired economic development.

If we recall the recent massive fire that broke out in the Amazon forest, also known as the ‘lungs of the earth’, it was, too, an outcome of measures taken for development. When questioned about his take on the matter, Bolsonaro stated, “We are open to explore our potential in a sustainable way, through partnerships that add value.” But did that happen? Perhaps not! Unfortunately, environment and sustainability always take a backseat not only in Brazil but in several other emerging economies, and India, too, is a part of the league. When activists raised concern against this major deforestation, we claimed that they did want the nation to progress. Hence, the solution and concern of environmental crisis remain confined to mere verbal assurance and chances are feeble that these would materialise ever.

The biggest evidence of this is the UN Climate Change Summit that took place in September this year. It made quite a few significant announcements like building a consortium of pension funds, and insurance companies pledged to end all of their investments in carbon-intensive industries and stated that divestment is a great way to reduce pressure on the fossil fuel industry. However, it is seldom seen that big companies actually go for such divestment.

Moreover, India, U.S. and China were declared the highest emitters of greenhouse gases, but there was no significant step discussed from any of these countries. The BRICS summit was no exception, as there was very little focus on managing sustainability, and even though few points were raised, there was no discussion on the execution of the same.

Union Environment Minister, Mr Prakash Javadekar.

Union Environment Minister of India, Mr Prakash Javadekar praised the initiatives of BRICS countries to tackle the environmental crisis. He stated, “All five countries are rising and have many experiences to share, and these experiences will definitely help all the economies to improve further in our climate action efforts and protecting environment while ensuring growth at the same time.” But the question remains the same. How is this going to happen?

Mr Javadekar only highlighted initiatives such as Swachh Bharat Mission, Waste Management Rules, Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement and National Clean Air Programme as a solution to this. But so far, they have not shown any significant positive impact. Also, measures like electric mobility, marine litter, urban forestry scheme, development of resource efficiency policy will incur substantial allocation of funds, the source of which has not been clarified. Will it be through investment in the cause? If so, then will it not potentially hamper the projected economic growth and industrialisation? All these are still unanswered.

It will be interesting to note that not climate crisis but various other commitments that India made in the previous BRICS summits in South Africa and China have a remarkable deviation from the idea of execution. In the 10th BRICS summit in South Africa, the focus was on various issues that India is yet to get in action. One such agenda was to promote Global Economic recovery, introducing strong financial reforms and back government sectors significantly. If all the factors are to be considered, then India should have had a plan to boost the manufacturing industry and create strong financial reforms to counter the approaching global recession. However, we are far from attaining any of these! Further, the conflict between diversity and inclusion and a logical approach to scientific, technical, innovation and entrepreneurship cooperation are still distant dreams.

The question is, how much value do these strategies discussed in such a critical summit add to each of the member nations individually? Be it industrial growth, employment generation, climate crisis or sustainability, India is yet to incorporate any logical step. Instead, an unnecessary divide develops between the group that advocates environmental protection and the group, which believes that sustainability is just secondary development. There has been no intention of discussion on how these two important factors can be collaborated so that a fair solution comes out. More investors and organisations should be encouraged to contribute towards this issue actively; this should be the task of the government. The hope will always be firm that the result of this summit should be fruitful for India in the long run.

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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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