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Moving Towards A Holistic Wildlife Strategy

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As India celebrated “Wildlife Week” between 2nd and 8th of October, 2020, the continuing trend of impetus being given to the UN World Wildlife Day theme of “sustaining all lives on earth” was witnessed. The theme is significant as it demonstrates how interconnected and interdependent our sustenance is, with that of the wildlife. Also, it subtly underlines a shift in the Indian wildlife conservation strategies, from being tiger centric to being more comprehensive to include various other plant and animal species.

This shift was reflected in the union budget 2020-21, where the Project Tiger received 14% lower allocation compared to the last year while Project Elephant received 17% higher allocation. Almost simultaneously, the Government announced Project Dolphin and Project Lion, to diversify such protection schemes.

Special attention is also being given to “Species Recovery Programmes” for hitherto neglected species like the Snow Leopard, Hangul, Nilgiri Tahr, Dugongs, the Asian Wild Buffalo, Nicobar Megapode, Jerdon’s Courser, etc. as well as critically endangered species like the Northern River Terrapin, Clouded Leopard, Arabian Sea Humpback Whale and the Red Panda.

Being in line with the National Wildlife Action Plan 2017-2031, the clear focus now is on holistic biodiversity conservation of all plant and animal life. However, even with this new awakening, there is a herculean task to achieve.

Climate change and global warming are threatening mass extinction and now is a critical window to stop this. In this race against time, there are numerous challenges. The illegal wildlife trade through our porous borders with China and Nepal is booming with horn, skin, scales, meat, skull bones of insects to mammals being smuggled through the borders for medicinal and ornamental purposes.

Veerappan may be dead, but elephant poaching and ivory trade continue to be a menace, specifically in southern India. There are also many takers for exotic pets like turtles, butterflies, snakes, parakeets, etc. and there are extensive international markets for the same.

Wildlife crimes are at an all-time high and the National Crime Record Bureau has registered 618 new cases of wildlife crimes in 2019 alone. However, what is disheartening is the low conviction rate of 2% of such crimes. As wildlife crimes often happen at borders, the cooperation of paramilitary officials, customs, coast guards along with forest department officials is the key. Due to lack of proper training and coordination, several accused walk free.

Furthermore, these accused exploit the loopholes in the Wildlife Act to wriggle out. The state is required to prove the crime beyond reasonable doubt putting a huge onus on them, which is not supplemented by a proper collection of evidence. Furthermore, the accused often uses the “Self-Defence” excuse to escape a penalty.

elephant kerala
A pregnant elephant in Kerala died this year after consuming a fruit filled with crackers.

Moreover, the man-animal conflict has become very pronounced, leading to many untimely animal deaths. The unfortunate death of the pregnant elephant in Kerala this year after consuming a cracker filled fruit is a case in point. Elephants often see themselves at loggerheads with plantation owners and agriculturists, as they venture out into human domains due to their shrinking habitats. The high tension wires and sagging power cables are also responsible for electrocuting unsuspecting and innocent animals, specifically elephants.

Separately, monkeys have become a menace in various cities and towns as they move towards settlements in search of easy food and water. Different state governments have been dealing with them in different ways from translocating to sterilisation to now treating them as vermin and allowing them to be culled down.

The Government has realised the above-mentioned ground issues and is in the process of resolving each of them. For instance, a committee has been constituted to amend the Wildlife Act, which has recently submitted its report.

Furthermore, the Biodiversity Act is increasingly used to supplement other statutes to bring perpetrators to books. The Government has also issued an advisory stating that all exotic pet trade registrations need to be made in the wildlife warden and the customs officials are not being burdened with the full onus in such cases.

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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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