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My Journey Of Becoming A Climate Activist At The Age Of 13

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My name is Bodhisatva Khanderao. I am 13 years old. I am studying in class 8 at Kendriya Vidyalay Yavatmal. I live in a small village, Bhosa, near Nilona forest. It gives me immense pleasure to wander in the woods. To observe the beauty of nature gives me limitless joy.

Forest Fire
According to the India State of Forest Report 2019, over 30,000 incidents of forest fires were reported in India in 2019.

When I was 5 years old we came to live in our new house in Bhosa. In my childhood, I saw forest fires regularly. My parents used to call the forest authorities every time regarding it. I have seen several rural people lose their lives in wild animal attacks. I watched people living in nearby villages cut trees ruthlessly. These things made me nervous. I asked my mother how we could stop it. She told me, “We cannot stop the cutting of trees, but we can plant more trees to save the forests.

In 2013, when I was in class 1, I participated in the science exhibition held in my school. I presented the Seed Ball Project for mass plantation. My project was selected for district level. Thousands of students, teachers, parents and other people visited my table. They appreciated it a lot.

Teachers from different schools started to invite me to teach them the Seed Ball method to their students. They began to make Seed Balls. It became a popular plantation method in our region. After that, many institutes started to invite me for a demonstration. I went to schools, colleges, Gram panchayats, Self-Help Groups, Summer camps, Religious places, social gatherings, Govt. Offices, NCC and NSS camps, etc. to teach people how to make Seed Balls. I explained the importance of social forestation to everyone. I requested them to start mass plantations. Innumerable people joined my work. The Seed Ball method became the Seed Ball movement.

Once, I visited a school in a big city. We could not find soil and cow dung to make Seed Balls. Hence, I invented two new easy and free of cost methods for mass plantation.

  1. Magic Socks Method.
  2. Green Pouch Method.
seed balls
Seed balls are a method for distributing seeds by encasing them in a mixture of clay and compost.

Now, many school children are applying these methods in our area. If we use these new methods of plantation along with the traditional ones we can grow forests faster. I think that if you come with a useful purpose, people automatically follow you. I arrange a big Seed Festival at my home during the summer holidays. Many children, parents, teachers, officers, green organisations, social workers and NCC cadets join it. We make thousands of Seed Balls, Green Pouches and Magic Socks.

In June we go to nearby forest valleys ghats and disperse them in nature. We sing and shout and enjoy a lot. We take our tiffins and water packs with us. We enjoy the seed festival as a picnic. My friends eagerly wait for it. They enjoy making Seed Balls and working together.

My parents are forest lovers, especially my mother. She helps me in arranging such events enthusiastically. We ask people in our area to collect Seeds. Some organisations have established Seed Banks for our festival. People come to our house and donate dried seeds. We store them properly. We use all types of native seeds. My mother carries cow dung on her head, my father digs up the soil and we store big barrels of water. We arrange tea and sweets for all volunteers.

My parents are forest officers in our region. Our Guardian Minister, the Mayor of our city, the District Collector and countless people have helped me in my work. Once an agricultural authority in an Agricultural University suggested that If we added some grass seeds in Seed Balls and threw them on barren lands near villages, it can help grow good quality fodder for animals. Then we started to add dried grass in the Seed Balls.

I read some information about different types of Seed Balls on google. They are also thrown by helicopters in valleys and on uneven lands where humans cannot reach. I have received several awards for this work. I want to teach my new mass plantation methods to people all over the world so that we can all increase the green cover faster and effortlessly.

I feel sad when I watch the crop and animal damage caused due to climate change. Whenever the untimely rainstorm, hails or animal attacks happen, the poor farmers are affected. My hometown Yavatmal sees a lot of farmers suicide happen due to debt.

Tigress Avni Shot Dead
Killing of Tiger Avni sets a dangerous precedent.

Animals attack the village people because of deforestation. They lose their habitat and food and enter nearby farms and attack them. Sometimes people kill the animals because out of anger. A few years ago Tigress Avani was shot dead because she killed about 17 people in our area.

I have recently been awarded an International Young Eco-Hero Award in Notable Category for my environmental work. We must save our earth because we do not have any other option. If we work together, we can change our planet into a beautiful world. Learn to earn oxygen for yourself by planting trees. Plant a tree and get clean air.

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  1. Ganesh Khanderao

    How to upload image?

  2. Ganesh Khanderao

    Nice post.

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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.

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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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