INterview thirty-nine: adrija
Adrija, a keen and intelligent activist from India, told us about her knowledge and passion for topics such as period poverty, period stigma as well as climate change, international relations and educational equity.
1. We’re delighted to have you on our page, Adrija! Various topics of your interest that you’d shared with us were ‘Education Equity, Period Poverty, Migration and International Relations [and] Climate Change.” Could you take us through them and explain why they are important to you?
Greetings! I am delighted to be connecting with A Gen Z's Take! Thank you for your question. So, when it comes to Education Equity, it basically means "fairness and equal opportunity in education." That is to say, no matter what your background, gender or any aspect of your identity is, you must get as much exposure and opportunity to progress in the field of education as the next person. Education equity is important to me as I have seen education totally transforming the lives of people, while a lack of education pushes potential talents into darkness. Period Poverty refers to the situation wherein menstruators are unable to have access to period products during their monthly cycle. This can happen due to a lack of finances or stigma or both. This problem is important to me because in India non recognition of this problem has become a detriment to the progress of many menstruators, especially girls, in India. Migration and International are related, but they are not the same. International Relations refers to the relationship that is shared by different countries, and international migration is the movement of people from one country to another. These issues are important to me because I have come to realize that these can decide not only the fate of individuals, but of countries as well and can also start or prevent wars. Climate Change, I believe, is a topic that everyone will have an idea of even if I do not introduce it, it is that urgent. Climate change refers to a change in temperatures and weather patterns. When this change or shift is natural, there is a balance. However, when it happens because of human activities, that is where the problem begins. It is important to me, because, like the rest of the world, India is also acutely facing the impact of the climate change crisis.
2. Are these topics intersectional? What do they have in common and what are issues unique to each topic?
Yes, I believe that on some level these issues are intersectional, and the most obvious common element is human action. Talk about Education inequity, it is us who have created privileges in society. Period Poverty, it is us who have kept the stigma alive. Migration and International relations issues are based on our attitudes, and climate change is largely a result of the activities we choose to undertake. Looking at it the other way, lack of access to education leads to lack of awareness, which in turn gives rise to stigma, volatile attitudes towards different communities, and also leads people to take actions that lead to pollution of the environment. As you can see, they are all interrelated, but the same approach will not work for all of them, because they have different root causes and implications. While we can definitely start with education and spreading awareness, eventually we will need to branch out and take recourse to specialized approaches.
3. Do you have personal experience tied to any of these subjects?
Yes, I do have a few personal experiences. Period poverty stems from period stigma, and I have experienced that firsthand. In India, it is still a taboo to talk about menstruation, that is how we are brought up. So, when I reached puberty, my mother was very reluctant to explain to me how and why changes were happening in my body. She only taught me how to use a sanitary napkin. I had vague explanations from my friends, but much of it was just speculation, which caused me to be scared and anxious. It was finally in Grade 8 that I came to know about everything clearly. Such is the situation with many young girls in India even today. Many families are reluctant to spend on menstrual hygiene and period products, which in turn gives rise to period poverty. With regard to Migration, the experience comes from my maternal grandmother. My country India, was partitioned into India and Pakistan on the basis of religion. About two decades later, Pakistan was again partitioned into Pakistan and Bangladesh on the basis of cultural differences. At times, Bangladesh saw religious violence, destruction and large scale massacres. My grandmother remembers how she had to flee to India with her family at the tender age of five, and the difficulties they had to face after migrating to a foreign land with no connections. They had to live in poverty, and even as a bright child, she had no access to education. She almost lost her father in the violence, and the horror stories of that period can make anyone's blood run cold.
4. What can people do to advocate for these issues? What are your methods for advocating?
As I mentioned before, the first step is spreading awareness. But that does not mean we should stop there. Nor is petitioning the government a few times and totally depending on them enough. The government can only do something when we support it. As is said, be the change you want to see around you. We must believe that change starts with us, and it is in our hand to take action.
I have tried to take small steps in these fields. I work with a number of NGOs to teach underprivileged children, and while teaching them, I encourage them to urge their friends to start attending classes as well, if they are not already enrolled in school. At the same time, I encourage my own friends to start teaching in their free time. This basically, is an attempt to break the vicious cycle of deprivation from education. When it comes to period poverty, the problem is two pronged. First, we need to bring about acceptance that menstruation is not a taboo, there is nothing "impure" about it, and that not just women, but members of the LGBTQ community may also menstruate. Second, we need to largely improve access to period products. I work with The Period Society to try and approach both these problems. The first, by spreading awareness and hosting educational sessions, the second, by helping fundraise and encouraging donations so that we are able to reach out to the worst affected sections of the society. I try to approach the problem of migration through research. By writing papers, conducting interviews and making documentaries, I try to hold up the problems faced by the migrant population in front of the national and international community, and to garner support to help them lead a better life. For Climate Change, again there is a two step approach. On one hand, I try to minimize the practices that can harm the environment in my own family, and encourage my friends, relatives and neighbors to do the same. On the other hand, I attend international conferences to share my ideas and understand the international community's views on the issue. While it is true that many together can make a greater change than one person alone can, change always begins with the first step, first word, first change. As long as we take the initiative to kick start the chain of positive reform, there will be many others who join us. We should start working from the grassroot level, and there is something that each one of us can do. The least we can do is show that we care, by not turning away when there is an opportunity to take action right in front of us.
5. As you are from India, do you think these issues differ based on location? What have you observed to be the stance of India in regards to these issues?
Yes, I believe every issue differs based on location, political situation, and the social, cultural, and historical experiences of people. Education inequality and climate change might vary in intensity in various places, period stigma or poverty might not be an issue everywhere, and migration problems might differ with the difference in attitude of the local population towards external communities.
While India has a long way to go in all these fields, period poverty and climate change need to be most urgently worked upon. Pollution levels in various cities have risen to dangerously high levels, and little to no work has been done in the field of period poverty. The other fields have received some attention.
6. Is there anything else you’d like to share before we wrap up? If not, I’d love to thank you for engaging with our organization!
The only thing I would like to say is that, the time for indecision and inaction has long passed. It is high time that we work together to bring about the changes that we know the world cannot survive without. This can be achieved through individual agency and collective action. Remember, the power is in our hands.
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