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Both Businesses And Customers Need To Change Their Mindset To Reduce Waste

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Children grow up so fast. My Spanish aunt and I were discussing just this, when my cute one-year-old cousin dropped food on her shirt. Suddenly, we switched to discussing the daily struggles of doing laundry and how it’s difficult to have enough clothes for a toddler. With this, she introduced me to a very interesting, though foreign, idea.

To my surprise, she told me that because of these challenges, they don’t always buy new clothes for the toddler. Rather, she borrows clothes from her local circle. In my very Indian mindset, I felt offended. “But aunty, isn’t that a little unwanted? Can’t we instead buy her less but new clothes?,” I retaliated.

Empathetically, she showed me this ‘Recent Mothers’ WhatsApp group that she is a part of. These mothers have met each other at local hospitals, gyms or through friends of friends. Their children are only 1-2 years apart from each other. This way, they can share books, clothes, toys and other re-usable items till they lose their shelf-life. She told me that they have built a small community of their own where they come together for different activities. One of these activities is wrapping clothes that their children have outgrown and giving them to another mother, whose child is usually a little younger than their own.

Representational image.

It suddenly made so much sense to me. These mothers begin sharing more than clothes itself. They enter this chapter of motherhood together and truly become each other’s confidants. In fact, I could now observe why my aunt would pick toys, clothes and other items which are of more inclusive colours and patterns for my cousin. This is simply because she was not just buying it for her child, but for other kids too. The most obvious greatness of this practice is the effective attempt at reducing wastage.

Equating this trend in the Indian society, I realised that here, trends change as fast as children grow. And we soon lose interest in our mobile phones, clothes, stationary, books and almost everything.

In fact, though I would call myself a minimalist, I, too, have fallen for various marketing gimmicks. One of them was for my eyeglasses. Within just 5-6 years of turning a four-eyed person, I have started changing my pair of glasses pair every year. And not because they were worn out, but because I wanted to try a different trend. Each time I would change a frame, I would try out a new feature like UV protection, Blue light protection, scratch-free glasses and what not.

And one day, I thought how people who do not need eyeglasses do not need any of these features either, and they actually have the healthiest eyes. So, I shunned all my fascination for the spectacle world and decided that next time, I would merely go for an ordinary frame with absolutely no extra feature for my glasses.

But then, none of the glasses I was using were as worn out. So, I tried getting our local optic store to take my older specs for an exchange value against my new pair of glasses. And he just bluntly denied it. He said, “Sorry madam, we don’t take old glasses.” Defeated, I came back home, and my mother refreshed my memory of the Indian mindset. She explained how “if he were to take my old pair of glasses, news would spread that he gives old glasses at the cost of new ones. And this store is not a brand, it’s advertisement is usually just through word of mouth.”

How To Recycle Daily
Representational image.

From a world of poverty, to merely-enough, enough, and now more-than-enough, we are consequentially headed to wastage. And I believe it is time to pause and think.

I understand that it is almost impossible to advocate for a classic definition of minimalism in a world where advertisements clog our perception of what we actually need or don’t need. But in a more modern definition, we can practically reduce instances when we would whimsically buy products that fundamentally had the same functionality. Similarly, we must also be more willing to re-use older and recycled/refurbished goods that have not exhausted their entire shelf-life. Such a shift of mindset will go a long way to recover our already ailing and weeping planet.

But like my spectacle story, one customer is helpless, unless businesses don’t promote this trend. And for them to invest in such a trend, a major shift of mindset must occur among the target audience. I believe it is crucial for each business to not stop after the mere sale of their product but must also be willing to expand their services to responsibly take back what was left by the customer.

This model is not new. In fact, we already buy bigger products on an exchange offer, but I think we must expand this to a much wider set of goods. Like clothes, toys, accessories and food too. Businesses will also equally benefit from this model because it will enhance research and development, and boost the goodwill of the company in turn for responsibly conducting business. Lastly, no business suffers from an extra source of money-making.

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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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