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Students Of Enactus Kirori Mal Are Making Women Entrepreneurs The Eco-Friendly Way

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All over the world, big corporations have come under scrutiny for their unethical labour practices, contribution towards growing inequalities, and unsustainable products. Opposition against fast fashion companies has been mounting. As calls to boycott them gain popularity, the consumer void has widened, which needs to be filled with alternatives.

Alternative economies comprise of companies that move beyond the profit-driven, hierarchy-led model, and into social entrepreneurship and cooperatives. The idea that entrepreneurial models can also focus on community development is being taken up by civil society and student organisations. One of such organisation is Enactus Kirori Mal College, a chapter of the international student-run social entrepreneurship organisation Enactus, working with the students of Kirori Mal College, Delhi University. They chapter has three running projects: Project Dor, Project JanBhoomi and Project Syahi.

Project Dor developed from a skill development programme in 2016. Dor works with a team of migrant women from Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal to manufacture handcrafted tie-and-dye products. Tie-and-dye, a traditional Indian art form originating in Rajasthan and Gujarat, has been sidelined due to a cultural shift towards Western fashion.

However, Project Dor makes neo-ethnic, versatile and gender-neutral cotton and chanderi scarves, dupattas and cushion covers, and aims to bring the apparel market’s attention to this dying art. Dor has also made considerable strides in being a sustainable brand, since they are now zero-waste (all of our defective scarves are made into potlis). They even have eradicated plastic use by packaging their products in paper.

Rural women sitting
Representational image.

The EKMC members teach the community the technical aspects of production, as well as organise workshops for them in collaboration with other NGOs, disseminating awareness on health, hygiene, social issues and education.

Dor has led to the emergence of a community of women who are financially independent, as well as on their way to becoming entrepreneurs. The beneficiaries are being trained in business operations, from production to marketing and finances, since the ultimate goal of every Enactus project is for it to be run by the community itself, with minimal help from Enactus members. After four continuous years, Dor is on its way to becoming a completely beneficiary-run business.

During our time working with Dor, we realised that the problem of women being financially dependent on the male members of their family is extremely pervasive. So, we chose another community of women as our beneficiaries for our latest initiative, Project Syahi. Syahi’s team of skilled beneficiaries is a community of women who reside in Tilak Nagar, New Delhi. After joining Syahi, they have access to a stable source of income. Like Dor, Syahi’s community is also learning the basics of entrepreneurship.

Syahi’, meaning ink in Hindi, is a unique idea that translated to a business with an ambitious aim. Project Syahi creates pens made out of paper. The problem that this initiative is trying to tackle is that of single-use plastic waste. The stationery industry is one of the largest contributors to the menace of plastic waste. In India alone, more than 1.65 crore pens are discarded every month. Under Syahi, the body and the cap of each pen are shaped from upcycled paper. All Syahi pens have a seed attached to their rear end. This means that after you finish using the pen, you can plant it in soil. As the paper disintegrates, the seed will grow into a sapling and enrich your garden.

Plastic waste is extremely harmful to our land. In India, where agricultural land is essential, land degradation must be tackled. Because of factors ranging from plastic waste to chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the total area of fertile land is decreasing, and being replaced by land that yields crops of lesser quality and quantity. This is the focus of Enactus KMC’s third initiative: Project JanBhoomi.

JanBhoomi works with farmers, schools and nurseries to solve the problem of land degradation and pollution caused by chemical fertilisers by replacing them with the organic alternative of compost. This also effectively leads to better waste management, since most of the biodegradable solid waste is being turned into compost. Even the packaging of the compost is eco-friendly, leaving no room for unsustainable practices.

Project JanBhoomi also creates organic compost through flower-composting and other techniques to replace harsh chemical fertilisers that harm fertile land. Advocating for growing your own food, it has a customisable gardening toolkit with five high-quality tools, which are a hand cultivator, a gardening fork, a trowel, a weeder and a transplanter.

Changing our consumption patterns is something that most of us can do on an individual level. If we shift the market’s demand from unethical corporations to local, small businesses, we will be contributing to the livelihoods of people who really need it, as well as softening the devastating effects of climate change. Drop by drop, we can make an ocean.

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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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