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‘Save The Earth’: The Corona Pandemic Has Come With A Warning

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The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has created an unprecedented situation around the world. A joint statement by the ILO, FAO, IFAD and WHO, issued on 0ctober 13, 2020, stated that the pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and presents an unprecedented challenge to human existence. The statement further states that millions of enterprises face an existential threat. As breadwinners lose jobs, fall ill and die,  food security and nutrition of millions of women and men are under threat, with those in low-income countries — particularly the most marginalised populations, which include small-scale farmers and informal workers — being hardest hit.

Toby Ord, Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, writes about the existential risks that now confront human beings. “We face possible catastrophes which threaten the permanent destruction of humanity’s potential, such as human extinction or an unrecoverable collapse of civilisation.” These are known as ‘existential catastrophes’.

Pandemics such as the coronavirus pandemic are the result of humanity’s destruction of Nature and the world has been ignoring this stark reality for decades. The Covid-19 pandemic may be considered a reminder that there are ‘limits to growth’. With awareness of climate change, food insecurity and biodiversity decline on the radar, such a statement sounds reasonable. One must, therefore, consider Covid-19 a subtle warning from a smart teacher, i.e. Mother Nature.

Authors of the iconic book The Limits to Growth (LTG) said this almost 50 years ago. The LTG is a 1972 report on the exponential economic and population growth with a finite supply of resources, studied by computer simulation. Commissioned by the Club of Rome, the study concluded that if the present trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next 100 years.

Time is running out. Humans need to colonise another planet within 100 years or face the threat of extinction, high-profile physicist Stephen Hawking had warned us in a BBC documentary called Stephen Hawking: Expedition New Earth. He stressed: “With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious.”

Previously, Hawking had theorised that humanity has around 1,000 years left before it becomes extinct. His timeline now appears to have shortened.

Hawking is not the only major figure in the world of technology and science who has warned about the threat to human existence. Earlier, Elon Musk (Tesla CEO) and Jack Ma (Founder of Alibaba) have warned us that society could become extinct because of the disruption caused by new technology (like AI) and the internet.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to convey roughly the same message today, but with slightly more urgency. Today, we are at a point in human history where habits that once worked well don’t work anymore, argued Dennis Meadows, one of the authors of the LTG, recently at the United Nations University.

The coronavirus is a reminder to us all of our weak state. Regardless of our social standing and financial position, we are helpless. Situations like this remind me of the preaching or sermon of Lord Krishna when he said to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter IV, verses 7 and 8): “Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an increase in unrighteousness, at that time I manifest myself on earth.”

Should we wait for God to clear the mess created by us?

Instead of looking for ways to leave this planet, shouldn’t we instead try and solve the problems that surround us? I’m not a scientist, but personally, I feel as though leaving the planet or preparing to leave is like giving up.

girl in a mask during lockdown and children holding saplings plants

As we step into 2021, humanity must address the dangers of its own existence by changing its way of living. Humanity must think seriously about the un-intellectual industrialisation, urbanisation, deforestation, environmental degradation, resource depletion and population explosion. In sum, it is a warning that climate change is real and we must urgently reduce global warming.

On the last day of the year 2020, one of my friends asked me, “What is there to smile in the Corona year?” No doubt, there was no satisfaction or happiness, rather much yearning. But if one thinks a little bit differently, you will find reasons to smile.

The Bhagavad Gita emphasises: “Whatever happened, happened for the good. Whatever is happening, is happening for the good. Whatever will happen, will also happen for the good.”

This applies so accurately to the present situation. We must change our way of living that gets manipulated by our selfish instincts. Think of how much we have damaged Mother Nature! So, change the way of living and you will find hundreds of reasons to smile.

Time is running out. Virus attacks, disease epidemics and catastrophic climate change are fast approaching threats to our beautiful green and blue home.

Wishing you a Happier New Year!

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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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