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How Switching To The Good Old ‘Khadi’ Can Help Fight Climate Change In India

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

In today’s world, where climate change has become a hot topic, the call to switch to more sustainable alternatives to fast fashion has become an urgent need. While buying from thrift stores has become a popular option rather than buying from brands like Zara or H&M, there is an alternative possible right here in India.

It is the use of textiles of India. Indian textiles have a rich history in South Asia and have played an important role in its social, cultural and economic life.

Since the 2nd millennium BC the technique of mordant dyeing, which gives vibrant colors that do not fade, has been used by textile workers to produce far more advanced textiles than the west.

The 21st century has seen the massive rise of fast fashion. Coined to describe the turnover of designs that transition from runaways into current fashion trends sold at cheap prices, it became very popular in the 2000s.

Representational image.

Examples of fast fashion brands are Zara and H&M which create thousands of styles all in touch with local trends, have limited quantities of a particular garment or item like shoes or  handbags, and are made of cheap low quality materials like polyester.

Why Should We Choose Indian Textiles?

Fast Fashion & offshore manufacturing

Most importantly, fast fashion is reliant on offshore manufacturing where workers are exploited by being paid low wages, without necessary rights and unsafe working conditions.

Using textiles made in India however, due to their social heritage, helps employ craftsmen from rural areas who often work in tandem with the people creating clothes from the material and help combine the khadi cloth with local skills like dori, chikankari and modern dyeing.

Despite the risks of exploitation and economic woes, it is relatively safer due to the community involvement factor in the process.

Polyester pollutes water

The worst consequence of fast fashion however, is undoubtedly the impact on the environment. In order to continue selling these clothes at low prices, they are made out of synthetic materials responsible for polluting our water bodies.

To be specific 35% of all microplastics are from these synthetic materials. These fibres are made of polyester which tends to release far more carbon emissions than other materials like cotton.

Plastic is also extremely slow to degrade and continues to degrade in the ocean for years to come and when it does finally break down it creates a toxic substance which has a devastating effect on marine life and marine ecosystems.

Materials like khadi on the other hand have zero carbon footprint and are eco friendly. Khadi is also organic because its production does not require intensive energy consumption and it does not generate any toxic waste or by-products in the process.

Khadi is sustainable

In India a high consumption of fast fashion has set it up to become the world’s 6th largest apparel market but it is not too late to rethink our fashion consumption. Even though western fashion and brands that mass produce clothes are trendy and catch the eye we must increase our consumption of Indian textiles.

Khadi is one of the most sustainable Indian materials and can refer to any natural fabric which is handspun like cotton, silk, jute or wool.

Large Indian brands like Ritu Kumar have been sourcing khadi for over a decade due to its low environmental impacts. Khadi can also be combined with other Indian crafts providing employment to large sections of India’s population.

Where Are We Lagging Behind?

One drawback however, is how Indian fabrics are expensive due to the amount of effort and labour it takes to make these high quality clothes making it difficult for most people to purchase them regularly.

However, schemes like the government’s Production Linked Incentive scheme are aimed at boosting domestic manufacturing and if more programmes like this are implemented they might continue to help create larger employment opportunities and scale up business in the textile sector.

The Atmanirbhar Programme also allotted 1.45 lakh crores to boost the manufacturing sectors including textiles. Acknowledging textiles as environment friendly and doing mass public campaigns on their benefits as opposed to fast fashion will also help spread awareness of their advantages against climate change.

The Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks is one of the flagship schemes of the Ministry of Textiles aimed to assist small and medium entrepreneurs in the textile industry.

Representational image.

The key to increasing the consumption of Indian textiles lies in combining modern tastes with traditional crafts making them more relevant and attractive to current consumers.

A more thought out approach to design and quality as well as encouraging new age designers to source raw materials and sustainable options will ensure that there is no compromise in the attractiveness of the product.

The economy can be driven from the grassroots by opting to go local and by returning to our roots we can do our bit to curb climate change in the Indian subcontinent.

Featured image credit: flickr/for representational purposes only.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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