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Climate Change: The Trauma Of A Self-Inflicted Reality

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The Earth’s climate has undergone multiple phases of change throughout history, alternating between ice ages and warm periods. There is no denying, then, that climate change is a natural and historical phenomenon. However, the words ‘climate change’ in this day and age tend to appear as a flashing warning in bold red letters, bringing to mind disturbing images of melting ice caps, floods, cyclones, and droughts. While climate change may be natural, the direction and accelerated pace at which we are experiencing it today are not.

climate change women

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report on global warming of 1.5 degrees, the unprecedented changes in the last fifty years are a direct consequence of excessive human activities and the resultant greenhouse gas emissions. It is this new artificial character of climate change, driven by human industrial activities, which poses an imminent threat.

The beginning of this change can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. The unabated burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil ever since has resulted in a 40% increase in CO2 levels, 30% more acidic oceans, and an unparalleled global temperature rise. This adversely impacts and alters the marine and terrestrial ecosystems, threatening the very survival of all the organisms on the planet, including humans.

While climate change is a multifaceted problem that would affect all social, political, and economic systems, its impact will not be uniform across different regions and among varied groups of people. The fact is that climate change will prey upon the vulnerabilities of people, further neglect and marginalize the minorities and result in the creation of a society more unequal than before.

While there is a consensus that climate change is a devilish threat, the question is, what are we doing about it? This is where the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) come into the picture. Adopted as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations in 2015, they aim at capacity building and focus on the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social, and environmental. They represent a promise for a global partnership to work towards and implement a plan for a sustainable present and future.

Among these, SDGs 13, 14, and 15 (climate action, life below water, and life on land, respectively) strive to mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change and preserve marine and terrestrial life. Considering the profound threat that climate change poses, the youth possess the right and responsibility to push for a more secure future.

Keeping this in mind, two groups of the Campus Captains Program were tasked with researching and presenting these SDGs. While the first group tackled all three SDGs, the second focused on climate change and climate action. However, both groups supported their research with compelling statistics and case studies.

Group one discussed issues like deforestation, land degradation, desertification, and preservation of biodiversity. Interestingly, they also shed light upon the issue of cryptocurrency and how its mining requires exorbitant amounts of energy resulting in excessive carbon emissions. This was accompanied by unique yet simple ideas that can be implemented at the individual level to ensure a sustainable lifestyle along with macro-level institutional solutions.

Concerning SDG 14, they discussed the various zones of the oceans, the creatures and plants inhabiting them, their role in the overall marine ecosystem, and their threats due to human activities like overfishing and pollution.

The second group did a more in-depth presentation about the effect of climate change on flora and fauna. While examining these, they brought forth overlooked consequences like changes in the sex ratios and reproductive patterns of animals and the altered pollination cycle of the plants.

Further, they adopted a three-pronged approach while discussing the effects of climate change on humans, focusing on health, home, and food. The increased vulnerability to respiratory diseases like asthma and mental health issues like anxiety and PTSD disorders were among the many concerns they highlighted regarding human health.

In terms of the impact on homes, they brought to light the issue of climate gentrification, whereby disadvantaged groups would be displaced from their homes. Finally, they warned against the change in food composition due to increased CO2 levels resulting in less nutritious crops.

Both groups discussed the real-life consequences of industrial activity, as evident in the accelerated destruction of the Amazon rainforests and the recurrent Australian wildfires. They traced the history of climate change, its causes, and its effects to illustrate the various political responses aimed at tackling it. Starting from the Rio Earth Summit of June 1992, they culminated their presentations by reviewing the most recent effort – the Paris Agreement of 2015.

Through their comprehensive and enlightening presentations, they emphasized that climate change is not a myth or a political tool, as many climate deniers would contend, but a grave, self-inflicted reality, against which urgent and united action is the need of the hour.

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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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