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As The Govt Goes On An Anti-Environment Spree, We Must Introspect Our Actions Too

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.

Of late, the concern of the protection and conservation of Dehing Patkai has been in the news. Indeed, it is the need of the hour to raise our voice against the destruction of the tropical rainforest located in the Northeast region of India, also known as the Amazon of East. However, before raising our voice against the atrocities of the corporates and the State, I would ask people to rethink and introspect about their parochial needs, which have often sabotaged the safety of our environment.

Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, “The earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” It is an epoch-making moment to rethink and re-introspect our ways of living, our mentality and actions that have been detrimental to the health of our ecosystem. As homo sapiens of the modern, mechanical era, we are enchanted with all the materialistic attainments in our lives. The pursuit of earning wealth so as to procure luxuries has become our raison d’être. This greedy pursuit has, deliberately or accidentally, turned our back on the environment. What we desire, along with wealth, are prestige and honour.

The luxuries we obtain have become an emblem of our prestige and honour in society. This is the very idea that is erroneous and absurd, and we as homo sapiens, the so-called superior beings on Earth, believe in. This attitude is domineering the human mind, with little regard for its effect on our surroundings and other living beings on Earth.

We are busy purchasing two-wheelers and four-wheelers, despite the availability of public transport in our localities. We build gigantic bungalows and buildings by uprooting trees and displacing birds, insects and animals from their habitat. Are we running after luxuries at the expense of the ecosystem? Are these luxuries intended for the exhibition of our relative superior position in society in terms of wealth?

Before raising our voice against the atrocities of the corporates and the State, I would ask people to rethink and introspect about their parochial needs, which have often sabotaged the safety of our environment.

We admire the richest people of the world, allured by their luxurious lifestyle. The fault doesn’t lie with the present generation solely, but also the older generations who have been victims of the absurd idea of luxurious lifestyles. The point is to highlight that we utilise wealth, deliberately or unintentionally, in a way that it tends to ruin the ecological balance.

Even the process of maximisation of wealth is itself detrimental to the health of the environment. Here, I would like to draw your attention to the idea of “simple living” or “minimalism”, which is at the heart of Gandhi’s idea of responsible living. He earnestly pleaded people to opt for simple living, as against materialistic comforts and luxuries. He warned against making nature a victim of human greed and unlimited indulgence. He appealed to his countrymen to be conscious and considerate of the diverse and varied relationships we maintain with our own surroundings. Gandhi asked us to be “trustees” of this planet, not owners.

Minimalism ensued from the idea of ethical obligations to the “other”, which includes fellow humans, animals and nature. To curb our unlimited material wants, the main appeal made by Gandhi was using the concept of simple living. Gandhi believed that a good life can be lived only in villages. To him, big cities were centres of corruption and all kind of vices. He repeatedly said that village life is an ideal life due to its close proximity to nature. He was critical of modern civilisation.

His indictment of modern civilisation in the book Hind Swaraj was intended to caution the mankind against this calamity. He made an imperative appeal to his countrymen not to get allured by this civilisation, which is characterised by the unending pursuit of material pleasure and prosperity. However, Gandhi’s dream could not be fulfilled and soon after independence, India became an ardent follower of Western modernity.

Modern machinery has become a part of human lives. Gandhi’s appeal to switch from urban, modern life to village life has become a mere impossibility. The least we can do is practise his idea of simple living by limiting our material and luxurious wants as far as possible. Furthermore, rather than admiring the richest people for all their luxuries and wealth, I think we should admire and seek inspiration from people like Jadav Payeng, also known as the ‘Forest Man of India’.

Jadav Payeng is an environmental activist and forestry worker from Majuli, Assam, who planted an entire forest by himself on the sandbar of the river Brahmaputra. He spent 30 years of his life planting trees to save his island and restore the wildlife in it. He might not be living a luxurious life, but he must be admired for his selfless contribution towards the conservation of our environment.

To conclude, activism and protests at national and global level are pressing priorities, but positive effects will start unveiling only when we, in the first instance, start working on ourselves and bring a change at the ground level.

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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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