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Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it

This year’s wedding season has been action-packed with many people opting for Sustainable Practices in their wedding ceremonies. One such ceremony was of our very own Young India Challenge Alumna Swati Khurana. Being a teacher and a Teach For India fellow herself, Swati attended the 8th Young India Challenge at IIT Delhi in 2017. Since then it’s been no looking back for her when it comes to spreading the message of Sustainable Development and Sustainable Living.

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Swati and her team at the 8th Young India Challenge in 2017

Swati embarked on a new journey in her life as she got married in October this year and her wedding was a perfect example of being the trailblazer and leading the charge of sustainable practices. The Mehendi Ceremony was organised in a way that it also educated the guests on how they can adopt practices that do not harm mother earth.

 

They started off with something as simple as going with paperless invitations and sending out E-Invitations to all the guests. The next step was to use biodegradable cutlery for food, steel glasses for serving water and non-plastic chairs for seating.

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At these ceremonies, we usually see that a lot of food goes to waste. But for her Mehendi ceremony, she chose to have a limited menu and all the leftover food was packed and distributed to avoid any food wastage. 

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Swati (center) with her students who prepared posters to spread awareness of climate change, food wastage etc.

All the decorations were re-usable and guests were gifted with planters. Some of her students also prepared posters to spread awareness among the guests about issues like climate change, food wastage etc.

 

Swati said, “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

She believes in taking small steps to spread a message of sustainability by actions and to show empathy towards mother Earth. 

Apply now for the 11th Young India Challenge, Bhubaneswar, Odisha

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Indian Youth Voice for Sustainability at the Young India Challenge Reunion: “We want a future full of hope not dismay”

23rd November, New Delhi: Fifty young people from across the country from the Young India Challenge community  gathered in New Delhi for a bi-annual reunion to create an action roadmap to tackle the climate emergency. The event was co-organised by RSPO, My Mark My City Initiative, AIESEC and Youth for Earth and after a month long intense discussions and productive critical arguments, youth from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds joined hands to co-create their commitment towards a shared responsibility for deforestation and exploitation free products in India and for making sustainable palm oil the norm.

This gathering was a follow up to the ‘10th Young India Challenge’ organized by Human Circle on 12-13 Oct 2019 at IIT Delhi and a ‘Climate Action Roundtable’ organized for the My Mark My City Initiative by the Museum for United Nations -UN Live’ in association with Human Circle in Mumbai. The event saw the participation of  500 selected youth, mentors, speakers and partners from more than 75 cities. The theme of the event was ‘Sustainable Living’ and the focus for the delegates was to find practical solutions for the ‘United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 12 ans 13, namely, Responsible Consumption and Production and Climate Action.

The Indian Youth Delegation stated

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“We represent millions of young people in India. We are now a 1.3 billion people country. More than 50% of our population is below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. It is expected that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years. For some this represents a demographic dividend and for others our overpopulation is putting immense pressure on the natural resources like air and water and worsening the climate crisis. We think this is a wake up call for all Indians and that it is time that we consider our ecological footprint not just in India but in other countries as well, which supply essential commodities to us like palm oil, pulp & paper, timber, soy, rubber and many others. We are aware that India is in a way IMPORTING DEFORESTATION through these products. For example, India is the largest consumer of palm oil, 50% of all the products we buy contain palm oil.

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We grew up in an era of extreme change. We have seen our homes once a place of warmth to be surrounded with smog, our air that gives us breath to be coloured in grey haze, our coastline where we have our livelihoods to be receding. In the Himalayan region, we see glaciers melting, temperatures rising above the imaginable and cyclones in Odisha destroying everything in its way. 15 states across India faced devastating floods in 2019.  We have no doubt that we are in the midst of a climate emergency. According to Greta Thunberg, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about your fairy tales of money and eternal economic growth.” Every drought and every flood is now more severe and more devastating. There is a need to ACT NOW!

The shift towards sustainable palm oil is a win-win situation for all. We believe that, not just us the youth, but all of us here today want to live in a future that is recognisable to us, one with abundant clean air to breathe, thriving forests and wildlife. There is no reason to accept anything less. This is the time for you, people of great power and influence within your circles lead this change. And we, the youth of India will be right behind you

Stop asking us to solve all your problems that you created. Solve them now. A better future is possible, and we will not settle for anything less.

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The Indian Youth Delegation will continue their work on #YouthForSustainability in their respective countries.

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Contentment received by working in the social sector is unmatchable

 

Tushar Singh Bodwal

In the formative years of my career, I have actively engaged with Social Entrepreneurial ventures and NGOs. There is something pristine about working in the social sector; contentment received by success in this arena is unmatched and learning outcomes from failures motivate you to outperform yourself in the future. I’ve had an extensive outlook of this field while working in the head team of multiple organizations.

Inclination to make a career in the social sector came when I went to rural Rajasthan for an internship in the second year of my college (2015). This opportunity was to work under the guidance of first female MBA Sarpanch of India, Ms. Chhavi Rajawat, on diverse issues like governance, sanitation, financial literacy, gender sensitization, education, menstruation, and farming. It made me realize my privilege of having better access to education, healthcare, and social infrastructure. Back then, I used to remarkably undermine my work and efforts, as I couldn’t see the change that we had aimed for, after the completion of my tenure. This notion changed when I received a call 4 months later, after returning back to Delhi from the village. 

The caller was my student, Vishnu, belonging to a lower caste family situated in a hamlet which had unequal access to water and subjected to different forms of discrimination in daily social discourse. His call on 5th September to wish me ‘happy teacher’s day, sir’ gave me more contentment than any contribution I had made in other arenas. It made me realize that we need to cherish each low hanging fruit that we get rid of while working on the long road to sustainably, equitably and inclusively bringing distributive measures in the society. 

Currently, I’ve been working with Centre for Logical Research and Development Studies, an NGO on a panel with several Ministries and Departments of Government of India and various State Governments. During my fieldwork for the National Level Monitoring program of Gram Panchayat Development Plan in eastern Uttar Pradesh, I went to a flood-prone district, Bahraich. I interacted with more than 650 individuals belonging to the District Administration, Panchayati Raj Institutions, Self Help Groups and Village Organizations. The district was tackling challenges centering around healthcare, inter-block connectivity for villagers and meeting the target of Swachh Bharat Mission in the prescribed time. Disaster proneness and challenging terrain is a nightmare for policy implementing agencies. 

In the backdrop of this, an interactive monitoring session left an indelible impression on my mind. The people of Mustafabad Village, along with PRI and District officials, set aside all the inhibitions and actively engaged in participatory self-governance. In a campaign meant for promoting evidence-based and truly inclusive development plans, this village set a benchmark for others on how to formulate and execute their vision in an effective, efficient and responsive manner. Amongst many teachings during my fieldwork, this experience remains peculiarly close to me.

These interactions made me realize that there are several low hanging fruits that we can easily get rid of by promoting youth mobilization. Grassroots level research and promotion of best practices can equip socially suppressed, economically exploited and politically passive communities in ensuring sustainable lifestyles for themselves. Hence, empowering them in the truest sense.

Tushar Singh Bodwal
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019

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Story of a failing student to framer of an education based NGO

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I was born in a middle class family in Puttur, Dakshina Kannada, Karnataka. Its neither a big city nor a rural place. My high school days; when I look back here, the unpleasant memories dominate over the pleasant ones. Yes, I used to get bright red underline(which means fail) in most of the subjects. 
I used to get insulting words from all the teachers about my performance in  academics. This added to build up shy nature and negative thoughts within me and I was convinced that I was good for nothing. This made me feel more inferior about myself. But luckily I cleared my 10th exams. It enlightened some hope in me! Later I joined PU College in my hometown. Here I faced one of the biggest struggle of my life,that was to pass all the subjects! One day I could not write very simple formula on the board, this made me to cry like a baby in front of all my classmates .Again luck was on my side, I passed my PU.  I joined for B.Sc and a different yet a happy phase of my life began. My teacher and my mentor, A P Radha Krishna sir is the only reason for bringing this change! He helped me to find the real me! He made me to prepare science models.  Finally, I completed B.Sc with 87%. Apart from that, I learnt many things from my friends and lecturers. Overall that brought a big change in my life. Later I did my M.sc in physics, now in the last stage of PhD in Physics. 

I am telling all these because, A teacher can create wonders, similarly teachers can ruin student’s life. My teachers changed my life. And of course, as a teacher, I am trying to make my students overcome from their academic and the skills related problems. Also, I believe there is nothing to do with marks, all matter is how skillful you are! How many loyal people are with you in your life? How innovative you are? How you socialize? These are the things that that matter ultimately. 

Do not judge any student or kid by their academic performance.  In this world many wonders and innovations are achieved solely by the Skill based Knowledge. I think each and every kid has their own talent; one should identify and nurture it. I believe that we, teachers have a very important role to play.
And This is the only and main reason to start Akanksha Charitable Trust in 2012. Through this, now my team of 125+ youths are inspiring and educating young minds in rural parts of Karnataka. As of now we have reached 15000+ students. Being a lecturer in Degree College, I inspire my students to work for SDGs by starting youth forum in the same college. I am the managing director of My Medhas. Here we teach students through experiments along with basics. Also, we concentrate on their skill development.

I believe value added education can bring tremendous changes in the society and I work towards bringing this change. If I can win over the bad, anyone can!

Shreesha Bhat
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019

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I am raising my voice to raise my community; I am aspired to inspire millions

Gitika Bhatia

“An unstoppable force of nature for she is infinitely wired to evolve into all things beautiful, built to conquer, achieve and sustain”

I am driven towards my mission to plant 1Bn trees and join 1Mn people in my mission, by 2025. I pride myself on being empowered, independent and detached woman which has been my learning from my journey so far.

My family business is 30yr old in Garment Manufacturing, which is known to be the 2nd most polluted industry in the world. I was motivated to change that when I along with my last corporate did research to manufacture clothes with less water, lower amount of carbon footprint and longer life. Technologies exist, we were not just aware of it. So we dug in and started prototyping fabric out from plant waste of Rose, Banana and Pineapple plants. We also worked around making variants of textiles from Recycled Plastics. Last year, I brought my knowledge and applied in my family’s business to shape it sustainably. This year, I went ahead to integrate technology and community with it by kick starting my marketplace idea which was long due, Grinfluent.

Technically, Grinfluent shall be a marketplace to learn, track and share your environmental impact through gamification & incentivization. Principally, Grinfluent will be the sense of direction to act and sense of motivation to incentivize you to act for the environment.

5th Element Group, a global impact accelerator validated my act while honoring me with Silver Coin of Honorable RaniLakshmiBai. Grinfluent and my passion were also appreciated when I was invited to a funded Silicon Valley, California trip for a simulation program where I pitched Environment Tech idea to Google and won.

I am raising my voice to raise my community; I am aspired to inspire millions.

Gitika Bhatia
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019

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Learning to empathize

Avish Vijay

I am Avish Vijaivergiya. I am a User Experience Designer and in the meantime, I just look at things as I love to compare and bitch about them. Things like water taps, doors, dustbins and what not.

Have you ever done this exercise, when someone special is coming to your house, you try to imagine all the scenarios possible, try to understand their needs, you tidy up the place a little, looking into those minor details?

Well, it’s simple, you have just put things in a meaningful order so that your guest feels
good. You have just designed a usable experience. That’s what I try as well, So the
question is, how do I it, or rather why do I do this? Why is it needed?

To answer that question, I would like to roll back the time a little. I was a very very shy kid who cannot talk more than a sentence. Adding to the mess, I was a single child as well. I used to have this strange thought that was a byproduct of this low self-esteem “I as a person don’t matter, its the person for whom I am doing this work for which matters a lot”. All these years I always felt that my views, my feelings, my thoughts don’t matter to anyone.

Among all this, I had a hard family time as well which suppressed me even further. Don’t worry I won’t go into sentimental details. This thing, which back then had many negative impacts, had empowered me with one amazing thing which I cherish forever i.e Empathy.

My experience with subsequent ordeal has offered me high self-monitoring, hyper-vigilance and a predisposition to and taking on a lot of emotional work.

With my background, I find this difficult to turn off. Whenever I’m around people or things, I’m gathering information, I’m studying behaviors, I’m noticing usability. I struggle to avoid being the vessel. I have to make a conscious effort to stop. But stopping feels unsafe.

This makes me more of a designer.

And now things have started falling into place, from graduating as a civil engineer from IIT Roorkee to taking a leap of faith in design and deciding to follow my passion to give this world better usability, a better experience.

Avish Vijaivergiya
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019

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Work Hard in Silence, let your Success be your Noise

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From a very shy girl in my school days to a young woman journalist now, my transformation as an individual has been profound because it demanded a lot of efforts by myself as well as my parents and teachers to bring me out of the cocoon.

At this juncture, I am reminded of an embarrassing moment in my school days which marked a turning point in my life. My classmates had mocked at me and my teachers were disappointed as I was asked to speak for two minutes on a given topic and all that I could do was to stand silent with a blank face and shivering hands, without uttering a single word.

From that day onwards, I took every single day as a challenge to prove myself. From grade 11 to graduation, I had participated in most of the events and those five years of my life had made me stronger, bolder and a confident girl.  Ironically it may sound, I stood as an outstanding student of my college.

I had then pursued my Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication from Andhra University and stood as a gold medallist (2016). Apart from the district and zonal awards, I had also bagged a National award for an All-India essay writing competition which was organised by the United Nations Information Centre.

While pursuing my Masters, I started writing for the letters to the editor column in the national newspapers. With a dream to build my career, I started working as a freelancer for The Hindu MetroPlus, Vizag and then started my full-time career with The New Indian Express. 

A few issues which brought about an impact in the society are; 

  1. Sanctioning of Rs 50 lakhs by the district administration for renovating a 113-year-old heritage building which was damaged after cyclone Hud-Hud struck Vizag and it was decided to demolish the building. The building has been serving as a girl’s school from the past three decades.
  2. Many parks in the city which were used as dumping grounds were revamped for public use, after continuous efforts were made with the district authorities.
  3. Parking fees at commercial establishments in the city were abolished after the issue was highlighted in the paper. 

During my journey as a journalist, I was awarded as the best young woman journalist of Andhra Pradesh in 2017 for my exemplary work in voicing out people’s voice. I was also awarded as the emerging journalist in print media in the state. 

Reshma Jain
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019