This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Connecting Dreams Foundation CDF. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Meet This Young Graduate With A Vision Of A Plastic-Free Ghana!

Did you know that every year, Ghanaians generate nearly a million tonnes of plastic waste, which is roughly 40 times the weight of the Statue of Liberty.

Let that sink in for a moment.

What is even more shocking is the fact that only about 2 to 5% of it is recycled successfully. Many parts of the country lack the necessary infrastructure for properly disposing of plastic waste. Marine and coastal Plastic pollution is a major issue here. Although trash management facilities exist, they are insufficient to deal with the country’s garbage production, and rubbish is dumped on beaches and into the ocean. Furthermore, waste plastic does not dissolve; rather, it breaks down into smaller pieces, leaving microscopic, poisonous particles for aquatic organisms to consume.

Plastic pollution is an issue since it doesn’t go away: “plastics are everlasting.” The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)has emphasized the urgent need for waste management and plastic pollution to be addressed in Ghana.

Ubaida Says, Recycle-Up Ghana! 

Meet Ubaida Sanda, a 26-year-old Global Changemaker Fellow who is trying to combat the threat of plastic pollution. The Global Changemaker Fellowship is a ten-month advancement program provided by the Connecting Dreams Foundation, India. It is designed to connect and cultivate a pipeline of Social Change Leaders who are committed to addressing issues in their communities.

Ubaida Sanda is a Global Changemakers Fellow from Ghana

After graduating in MSc Finance and Investment, Ubaida decided to step out into the world of social entrepreneurship. She has proposed several long-term strategies to help her country reduce its plastic footprint. Her work in Ghana focuses on minimizing plastic pollution, sensitizing and campaigning for her community members about the dangers of plastic pollution, and creating a market for environmentally friendly, biodegradable packaging alternatives to single-use plastics.

Just like the rest of Ghana, plastic overconsumption and mismanagement of plastic waste is a growing menace in her community as well. Surprisingly, discarded packaging accounts for about 40% of all the waste. What they are mainly failing at is utilizing plastic effectively and sustainably. Ubaida’s vision mainly focuses on sustainable packaging alternatives to traditional plastic packaging. Many alternatives to plastic projects have already been developed and are ready to use, or are in the works, she says.

Ubaida has been unwavering in her opposition to plastic pollution. Based on her experience over the years, here are a few recommendations on how to make a meaningful difference.

Marshal The Youth

According to Ubaida, spreading awareness has been a crucial component of her work. We must understand the importance of education and that change begins in the classroom. “How can we be an active part of the solution if the younger generation is unaware of the problem?“, she says.

Her greatest frustration as a young changemaker is the fact that we are moving too slowly. We know we don’t have the luxury of time, so by her experience, she has come to feel that young people can expedite change, particularly the change we want to see, which isn’t only about plastic pollution.

Be The Change You Want To See In The World 

As the founder of a youth-led initiative fighting plastic pollution, Ubaida gets her hands dirty too, with all the cleanup campaigns over the years.

While we recognize that cleanups are merely a tool for raising awareness and not a solution, we believe they are an excellent way to get people out there taking the first step.

A Cash Crop When Treated As A Resource

Ubaida’s concentration on biodegradable packaging is profound and unshakable among her numerous ambitions. She sees cash-crop burn residue as a viable substitute for typical single-use plastic packaging.

I don’t want to call it a Band-Aid, but it is a nice remedy — whether temporary or permanent.

Sustainability Will Sustain

Ubaida’s vision encompasses many UN Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production and Goal 15: Life on Earth: Stop Forest Degradation and Promote Sustainable Forest Management. According to her, it is sustainability that will sustain in the coming future and nothing else. Young people need to make their voices heard about meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Representational image.

What we are failing at is to use plastics efficiently. We have a planet to protect.

The Silver Lining 

According to a recent survey conducted in Ubaida’s community, 95.8% of people prefer environmentally friendly packaging and would choose it over single-use plastic. There is an opportunity to build a conversation around the best alternative solution to plastic waste and will undoubtedly lead to a plastic-free Ghana.

The good news is that YOU can help make a difference whenever and wherever you are!

Follow Ubaida’s journey as a Global Changemaker Fellow at Connecting Dreams Foundation, India, and see her fight against plastic pollution unravel. 

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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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