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‘Be Ashamed, Not Proud, That Children Have To Step Up For Climate Activism’

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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.

If there’s any way to describe the story and journey of Aman Sharma, a sixteen year old climate champion based in Delhi, it’s ‘extraordinary’. An avid bird watcher and wildlife photographer, he describes himself as a young person who consistently advocates for the environment, climate action and climate justice.

“All we are doing is killing the one planet we have,” he says. Aman was speaking at the Youth Ki Awaaz Summit, held last month in Delhi, where the issue of climate change was among the key topics of focus. “I am really thankful that kids are getting to speak at forums on issues that actually matter,” he said. “Historically, the Indian ethos has always been about a deeply aesthetic environment, considered sacred.”

But today, India is facing a serious existential crisis. Climate-related disasters such as cyclones, heat waves, water-logging and floods have seen a marked rise in the last few years, because of the rising global temperatures. India is particularly vulnerable to climate change-related catastrophes, given the high instances of inequality  and social conditions in the nation.

Aman’s Journey As A Climate Champion

Growing up, Aman had an unparalleled admiration for nature, the environment, which he credits to the complex ecosystem and its numerous species. “The more I fell in love with nature, the more it broke my heart, because it kept becoming more difficult to see what leaders are doing to the world – their own world,” he said.

Climate Activist Aman Sharma at YKA Summit 2019
Climate Activist Aman Sharma at YKA Summit 2019

The disillusionment he faced sparked in him a desire to rise and fight for climate action and climate justice. Inspired by the actions of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, Aman began a petition on last year, after noticing that every successive year was getting hotter, drier, thirstier and more polluted. His petition demanded the declaration of a national climate emergency, increasing the country’s green cover and meeting the commitments made under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to try to limit a rise in global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“How can India become a developed nation if its rivers are full of plastic and poison instead of fish and water?” he said. “Indians have not woken up to the urgency of the situation. Climate change is real and it is impacting people.”

Aman rejected the idea that development and environment can’t go hand in hand. The root of the issue, he believes, lies in the ideals of development that conflict with the ideals of environmental security and safety – one that focuses on urbanisation, profit-making and businesses. The toxic debate of environment versus development is something that is fed to us by our political leaders,” he said. “If anyone tells you development can be achieved only by sacrificing nature, they are lying to you.”

As his petition gained support from celebrities and environmental activists alike, Aman quickly grew to be one of the most powerful student voices leading the Fridays For Future chapter in India.

On Fridays For Future And Children Protesting

While Aman applauds the mass mobilisation of students for climate action, he is disdainful of the lack of political will to take concrete action and protect the future generations. “Our politicians are still in denial and our corporates hate us,” he said. “But we don’t want to inherit a dying planet.”

He believes the issues that the children are protesting over are very real and deserve complete attention from leaders. “Greenwashing, smart PR and blatant lies that go around by our leaders are only to distract us from the real problems,” he said. “No one talks about the fact that Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world, how children are dying, or how eleven out of fifteen hottest cities of the world are in India, or that India had the largest number of climate related deaths in 2018.”

And yet, he doesn’t believe this is anything the nation needs to be proud of. “Don’t congratulate me on doing what I’m doing,” he said. “Be ashamed of yourself, that you are part of a system where children are forced to protest, and fight for their futures.” 

Every Friday, Aman skips schools to fight for his future with hundreds of other children, who should be learning, growing and building successful futures for themselves instead. The life of activism also comes with a price for children. “Handling school with activism isn’t easy,” he said. “It’s tough, mind boggling and exhausting. But it has to be done.”

Aman’s Appeal To Indian Citizens

In Aman’s eyes, the the power of citizens in changing the way things are shaping up for the environment is paramount. Where the system has failed, he believes people can help bring the change. To him, there’s an abundance of science, research and brain at our disposal and we must use it. “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” he asks. “Waiting for others to save us is the biggest failure of history. Don’t wait. Let’s take matters into our own hands.”

Inspired by Aman’s words? Want to take action and be a part of the fight for climate justice? Join #WhyOnEarth, Youth Ki Awaaz’s campaign to build political will for climate action and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Find out more and join the campaign 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.

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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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