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Traditional Indian practices that preserve environment

Today, our country is riddled by a number of environmental concerns which has only aggravated in the last few decades. Air pollution, urban floods, groundwater depletion, climate change, humongous amount of plastic wastes and loss of biodiversity are some of the results of the rapid industrialization. Human in his quest for a better life has exploited the natural environment and damaged the balance. It’s time we stop turning a blind eye to these issues and learn from history how to manage our environment.

Traditional India was famed for its engineering constructions. From palaces to temples to tombs, India was a beautiful place of art, architecture and science. Archeological excavations from the Indus Valley Civilization showed sophisticated water management systems like the Great Bath and intricate underground sewage disposal systems that were one of a kind. Dholavira, was carefully planned and constructed between two seasonal streams. Chanakya’s Arthashashtra mentions irrigation using water harvesting systems. Sringaverapura, near Allahabad, used sophisticated water harvesting system to store the floodwaters of the river Ganga by utilizing the natural slope and elevation of the land. Takeaway lessons from Ancient India Recent floods in urban areas of Hyderabad, Jaipur, Patna and Chennai reminds us that unless proper water management practices are carried out, the livelihood of people can be endangered. History always reminds us that we need to learn from our mistakes. The above examples prove that people in rural areas practiced better water conservation practices.

Nature conservation practices in Northeast India

Northeast Indians uphold their culture, beliefs and traditions to utmost importance. These communities meet a substantial proportion of their resource requirements from a relatively small catchment area in which they have been living for a long time. They live in complete harmony with nature. The Meetei communities in the States of Manipur and Assam consider their groves sacred and worship them. These groves offer protection and birds and animals. Also these groves provide medicinal plants like ginger, eucalyptus and bamboo for the local community’s consumption.

Sacred Groves

There is misconception that people in North East are all non-vegetarians and eat all animal life. The fact is not this as most part of any north east community diet consists of mainly vegetarian food, a lot of green plants/vegetable and fruits. Like rest of India, people in North East also eat non-vegetarian foods as well but they are very considerate and scientific while doing so. Wild animals, deer, birds, fishes, waterfowl and other aquatic animals like snails, insects and crustaceans are very common items in the diet of the people. However, many of these animals are not eaten during certain periods, especially during the periods when they hatch eggs or are pregnant, with the pure anthropocentric motive of sustainable harvesting and conservation of wildlife. Killings during such reproductive periods is considered a taboo.

Some officers of Arunachal Pradesh, mainly of Basar/Aallo area, concerned about the loss of traditions in conserving the rivers/life in rivers, came together to form a group and even started a movement for creating awareness to follow old age traditions and results were positive. Jainism and Buddhism, which mainly advocate vegetarian foods, appreciate such gesture of human compassion towards animals. This all is in conformity with the Indian tradition, philosophy and lifestyle; and North East is leading by example. The river festivals of North East are also examples of appreciation and celebration of mutual understanding with environment. The above examples and the lifestyle adopted by various communities in India is ample proof to demonstrate that the concepts of environment and ecology were clear to the India much before the word ecology came in use in the latter half of 19th century. The need for Stockholm and Rio was felt when it was discovered that the western lifestyle of destruction and exploitation of environment is not sustainable and world was heading for an imminent environmental destruction. The Jain, Vedic and Buddhist traditions established the principles of ecological harmony centuries ago. The indigenous and ethnic people of the world, living in most hostile environmental conditions, had no intensions or inclinations to harm the environment. This is the reason that these communities live in localities which are immensely rich in biodiversity, mainly because they offered equal opportunity to nature to thrive. We have a lesson to learn from the present environment crisis, climate change, global warming and other ecological problems that Indian traditions of living in harmony will win the race ultimately. In this regard, communities which have respect for traditional conservation practices, have shown a path to rest of India and the world to live with environment and that is the true conservation of nature.

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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, 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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