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The Struggle of Our Time: Human Nature vs. Mother Nature

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The branch protruding from a nearby tree over the narrow path by which I am sitting sways up and down. There is a monkey on it. It’s taken a momentary shelter on it with his long ape-hands, stares at me with his mouth open for a while — trying to scare me away, making a characteristic sound of a machine that has just stopped working. I back away a little, taking care so as to ensure I don’t further enrage it; trying to remind it of our old friendship. But the next moment, he is gone.

 

Image for representation

 

I am sitting in between two black rivulets, flowing downstream with the tardiness of tropical summer, creating their own little rasping melodies and emanating their own numbing aromas; thus corroborating the fact that we are living in an industrialized world. There’s a little park I am in; although it is not as little as I have just expressed so casually; instead, if I take all facts into consideration, it is actually one of the biggest parks in the National Capital Region. But even then, I implore you, for the sake of this exercise, consider this park to be a small one.

I wave my hands at the boy I always wave to whenever I am here. He is playing with his little sister. He is a good boy, Vriksh. I like his name a lot. He smiles back at me with a radiant smile. I am happy seeing he is happy and he is happy since I appear happy too.

Once upon a time, an old African ape gave birth to another ape that could stand only on two of his legs. He stood on his legs and capping his eyebrows with his right palm, he squinted around. There were trees there; and squirrels, and animals, and birds… nothing different of any sort to get excited about. But even then he felt the inexplicable pang of a new renaissance, whose reason his brain was still unaware of; he turned his head and rotated it in all the directions. Maybe it didn’t happen in the break of a moment, but he felt there was something different about his surroundings, he felt an urge to move forward, to see what laid beyond. So he moved out; he moved out with his clan of men and women and children who had also been born  of the same African ape; destroying everything that came in their way. 

I am not very sad, just a little contemplative. A walk over the small bridge erected over one of the black canals takes me inside the park and has rendered me numb in the process. Do you think I am crazy, talking like this?

Yes, I am walking alone in Bandar Park, rightly named after the monkeys, the lords of this park, and I am thinking about Man and Nature.

Australopithecus to Homo erectus to home sapiens: The journey has been long. Wars, epidemics, diseases, natural disasters, and self-made disasters: man has braved them all. He knows this. But is this something to be proud of?

Yes, of course, it is. One of them explained it all too well: “The one, who is the fittest, survives.” Man is, of course, the fittest of them all, living and living and living and killing and killing and killing . Does my point need any further explanation?

Are man and nature two completely different words? Is Man not an intrinsic part of Nature?

I don’t know how the world was before industries came into being. I don’t know whether it was good or bad. I don’t even know whether the concepts of good and bad were the same then. But there is one thing I do know: the world, as it is today, is not fit FOR ME to live in. I have capitalized the words ‘for me’. I am not sure about others. In this huge universe of countless objects, even the different units of Homo Sapiens are different.

 

Harmony between man and nature

 

Time overlapped on itself like thin slices of cheese… enveloping between them the various feats of human beings, from wheel to splint wood to swords to guns. Nomadic monkeys started understanding that they need not move every time to fend themselves off nature. They developed the art of growing their own food at their doorstep. And it gave them time… time to invent some more ways of exploiting Nature; and making wars upon each other. Yes, the earth divided itself on the very command of Homo Sapiens. It became Germany, it became England and it became the USA; and all of them fought with each other like anything. One. No. One more time. Two. And as if the second one was not enough, man, in his private quest of killing himself, is now on the verge of uprooting the very life from the earth. Corona?

Development — a word they use to present a counter-argument to people like me. Mad, irrational; they call us. But does development mean plundering and reusing and plundering and reusing Nature, over and over again?

Are all homo sapiens equally happy about the so-called ‘development’?

Even an overuse of sweets can cause diabetes (by an aspect characteristic of the Homo Sapiens!), similarly, can over-development never be harmful to whom it is being done for? We have air conditioners to tackle heat and heaters to tackle cold. But would they have been necessary if we hadn’t incurred a need for them by our own misdeeds? Digging a hole (figuratively) and then digging another hole (literally) to refill the first one. We are stuck in a vicious circle.

Am I, am I making some sense here? I like strolling in the parks. Just as much as I hate walking in malls. This is my choice. But why am I telling you this? You have your own choices to make. You can decide what you like. How stubborn he is, you say. Perhaps I am.

Yesterday, when I was sleeping in one of the rooms of our house, situated near the Bandar park and its two black canals, surrounded by the countless home-made factories and warehouses, dug-holes, pit-holes, sand heaps, waste heaps, bony dogs, dog-shit, I had a strange dream.

In my dream, a little boy wearing strange clothes pointed his finger at a strange-looking screen in front of me, and said, “Grandpa, what is this, this green, this green THING with something to support it, a brown pole?”

I slapped him. In my dream. My grandson, named Vriksh, whose name literally translates to ‘tree’ in English. No. Not out of anger. But anguish.

Time passed on. Centuries got overlapped among themselves in the process. There was no Sun. You want to speak of the earth? No limbs, just fingers, five hundred Homo Sapiens were ensconced inside the five hundred small fluttering space ships, waiting,for the last star to explode!

Man had finally won the struggle. Or had he lost it?

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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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