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Why I Walk Out Of Class And Go On Strike, Every Single Friday

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.

India is one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to the effects of climate change. Longer and stronger heat waves, deadlier storms, water-shortage, droughts, and floods in parts of the country are just a few examples. Our nation is not one of those which disregards the Paris Climate Agreement by not taking any action—one among the 187 countries, India has pledged towards reducing carbon emissions through it’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). But neither is it a shining example of what must be done.

Being one of the biggest players, maybe even the biggest player, in the group of developing countries, India has a special role and huge responsibilities. We should be negotiating for climate resilience on behalf of all the developing countries and small island states which will also suffer massively from the climate crisis. India should be bridging the Global North/South divide, demanding climate justice and, therefore, equitable and just contributions to solve this crisis. Obviously, those who have contributed most to greenhouse gas emissions in the past – the so called developed states – must take greater responsibility than those who are less responsible. This however does not free India from stepping up its own game and increasing its own ambitions under the Paris climate agreement, which have been very low so far.

Photo courtesy of Fridays For Future.

Despite watching the climate crisis unfold, despite all the facts being out there, we – the young generation who will be most affected – aren’t allowed to have a say in who makes the decisions regarding climate change. Ask yourself, what would you do if you are being ignored? Wouldn’t you go on strike too, if you thought doing so could help protect your own future? That’s why I walked out of my class and started striking a few months ago. India isn’t alone here, all across the world young people are on strike because we are not the only ones who had been longing to have a voice in a political environment that have seemingly forgotten how to include young people’s perspectives into decision making.

In the current government’s manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections, under the forest and environment section, it boasted of “speed and effectiveness in issuing forest and environmental clearances”. This was a catchy euphemism for prioritising construction and industry over ecology and biodiversity. But there was no commitment towards the pressing issue of mitigation and adaptation from the climate crisis, which is already devastating life and property more frequently than it was two decades ago.

The current men in power – yes it mostly is men in our strongly patriarchal society – are creating an environment which is not safe for humans. The recent trio of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered a stark and powerful warning: our lands, our oceans and all of humanity are at grave risk, if we don’t rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 50% by 2030 to reach net zero by 2050.

Politicians now either knowingly deny informing themselves about the climate crisis is or have known the truth about it and are carelessly handing over our future to profiteers whose greed and exploitation of resources for wealth threatens our very own existence. We have seen politicians fumble, playing a political game rather than accepting the fact that the solutions we need cannot be found within the current system.

School students and young people at a sit in organised by Fridays For Future, demanding climate action. Photo courtesy of Fridays For Future.

Fridays for Future (FFF) is an international movement of school students who take time off from class to participate in demonstrations to demand action to prevent further global warming and climate change specifically striking on Fridays. FFF raises awareness about the global climate crisis and urgent need to tackle it while holding world leaders and businessmen accountable for the climate crisis.

A global climate strike was organised by students on November 29. It took place at a critical moment, coinciding with the 25th Conference of Parties (COP25) in Madrid. The Paris Agreement will come into effect by 2020, which leaves the COP25 at a critical juncture for increasing ambitions, so that we can fully commit to achieving climate justice. This is necessary because even if all the current pledges which have been made under the Paris Agreement are fulfilled, we would still reach around 3°C by 2100.

Photo courtesy of Fridays For Future.

Just to set a base and to remind you, the effects of a 3°C increase are horrible. The agrarian crisis will worsen due to adeverse heat waves, prolonged droughts, and flash floods. Water and food security will break down for the poor. Cities like Mumbai and Kolkata will face frequent flooding and also are under threat due to rising sea levels. A mass of land about the size of modern-day Pakistan will be barren and lost. We will be looking at a global humanitarian crisis with millions of climate refugees; people displaced from their livelihoods due to climate crisis. We may even face new wars. And if this isn’t enough, at 3°C there is the chance that future generations will not be able to stop further heating, even if they really want to.

Thanks to the internet and a few other factors we are the most empowered young generation the earth has ever seen. Now students and youth around the world are realising the grave emergency and circumstances that we are facing.

We care about our planet, our future, and all the other life-forms that exist on this beautiful planet. No one has a right over our future more than us. Thus, we must reclaim our planet, our environment, and our future—that is why we protest. We are here to stay until the necessary changes are made!

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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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