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Turning Over A New Leaf: Indian Celebrities Endorse Vegan Pledge

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We’ve all heard of Hollywood celebrities supporting different social causes and in India, it is now becoming more common for celebrities, public figures, and influencers too. Celebrities have the power to influence the public and their stand plays a significant part in spreading awareness about a cause. One such cause many celebrities and the public abroad and in India are supporting is that of farmed animal protection. The cause not just saves animals but also helps avert the ill effects of factory farming and slaughterhouses on the environment and consumer health. 

Western celebrities like Leonardo Di Caprio (pictured above) and Bill Gates have endorsed and invested in plant-based meats.

Animal Equality, an animal protection organization based in Pune announced a ‘21 days Plant-powered challenge’ initiative in which public figures take the plant-powered challenge and share their experience; while others who are already plant-powered (vegan) share their journey, tips, etc. The challenge is given through a video that is published on the social media accounts of celebrities and Animal Equality. So far, actor Sadaa Sayed from Telugu film, ‘Jayam’, Aaditi Pohankar from the web series, ‘She’ and Krishna Bhawardwaj from TV series, ‘Tenali Rama’ have presented the challenge. 

Amruta Ubale, Senior Director of Public Affairs at Animal Equality says, “Since Sadaa and Aaditi are already following a plant-based diet, they shared their inspiration behind going plant-based, tips and insights. And Krishna took the challenge himself in which he tasted different plant-based dishes and vowed to go plant-based for 21 days.

Sadaa shared that she turned vegetarian in her childhood. When she learned about the cruelties inflicted on cows and buffaloes for dairy on social media, she eliminated dairy from her diet too. She further shared how she replaced milk with soy milk in her tea and within a few weeks saw benefits like her persistent acne clearing up.

Aaditi shared that she went plant-based because of her connection to animals which was evident since her childhood. She adds that animals are sentient beings capable of expressing themselves and it is easy to go plant-based in a country like India which has a variety and abundance of plant-based foods. She went plant-based after knee surgery and saw its benefits and has been one for 4 years. While sharing what she eats in a day she added that a plant-based diet has helped with her fitness and skin and hair.

Krishna took the challenge from Animal Equality and tasted plant-based tea, chicken nuggets, pizza, blueberry cake and shared that they taste similar to their counterparts and some in fact taste better and are healthier. He adds if you add plant-based alternatives one will not miss out on anything. He further adds that by going plant-based we are helping animals and society.

Because of the multitude of benefits of a plant-based diet, many public figures like Bill Gates and Leonardo Di Caprio have invested in plant-based meat. Recently the Ministry Of Health and Family Welfare’s Eat Right India campaign asked Indians to choose plant-based foods to help fight climate change, citing sustainable living. 

A Plant-Based Diet Saves Animals

Animals in factory farms are separated from their mothers on the very day they are born. At the farm, they are beaten, thrown, and tortured during handling. They are fed antibiotics and hormones to increase their productivity. The animals are given little to no medical care. Male animals are sold for slaughter and the females are sold for slaughter as soon as their egg or milk output capacity reduces.

A Plant-Based Diet Is Healthier

World Cancer Research Fund states, “Basing your diet on plant foods is a great first step to eating well and reducing your cancer risk.” 

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals) states, “Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and athletes.

A Plant-Based Diet Saves The Environment

In a special report published in 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN climate body, found that plant-based diets are a “major opportunity” for mitigating climate change, and recommended that countries reduce meat consumption. Findings from a study at Oxford University; concluded that the single best way a person can reduce their impact on the environment is to follow a vegan diet.

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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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