Meet the changemakers who are making the planet a better place to live, one initiative at a time

Every year on June 5, world environment day, we are committed to living a sustainable life, caring for the environment and leaving a better planet for our children. But how many of us take our promises seriously and integrate sustainability into our daily lives? It could be something as simple as taking hot tubs instead of showers, switching to energy-saving light bulbs, or sorting the trash in our homes.

Some of us are diligently making the effort to follow environmentally friendly practices because we are aware of the causes of climate change and how things will get worse as the days go by. But there is a large section of the population that remains ignorant, and for that we need continued and consistent environmental initiatives to drive home this point – whether by organizations or individuals working for the cause.

There are many women, climate change warriors, who are making a huge difference with their environmental initiatives.

Here are a few that have caught our attention — and the world’s — as they strive to make this planet a better place to live. They have also been featured in National Geographic’s One For Change campaign.

Purnima Devi Burman

Purnima Devi Burman

In 2007, Purnima Devi Burman begins a thesis on the great adjutant stork (Hargila), a bird in danger of extinction. Little did she know then that she would launch a mass movement and a Hargila army of environmental women that would change mindsets and provide livelihoods for thousands of people.

It took Purnima years and many awareness campaigns to dispel the idea that the Hargila was a bad omen and a bird that littered the surroundings.

Purnima purchased looms for the women weavers who then produced beautiful fabrics with Hargila designs which are now sold worldwide. The mass movement now numbers more than 10,000 women, all environmentalists doing their part to increase the number of Hargilas in the country.

Thanks to his efforts, the 27 nests have increased to 250 and the Hargila army and the villagers ensure their protection to allow a new reproduction.

Varsha Raikwar

An RJ at Radio Bundelkhand, Varsha Raikwar is at the center of a concerted climate change awareness campaign where she uses the power of her voice to reach 2.5 lakh listeners from over 160 villagers through her daily show, Shubha Kal. They listen to Varsha’s ruminations, advice and first-hand reports on the effects of climate change and what can be done on the ground.

Varsha’s father is a farmer and as a child she often saw him discouraged when crops failed due to lack of rain. While he would say it is God’s will, Varsha would disagree.

When she expressed her wish to join the radio, her family was dead against her. Coming from a region where girls are married off as teenagers, going to work was “unheard of”. But Varsha stuck to her decision, and it paid off.

“My approach is positive – I educate them on the various ways they can make a difference in their lives and live sustainably – rainwater harvesting, organic farming, eliminating plastic, planting a vegetable garden, etc. We also asked our listeners to let us know if they had done anything new, and we featured it on our show,” she said. His history in a previous interview.

Sneha Shahi

While a master’s student in environmental studies at Maharaj Sayajirao University in Vadodara, Sneha Shahi joined UNEP’s Plastic Tide Turner program, which brought together over 300 students and raised awareness of environmental conservation.

During this time, she and her team came across an urban stream named Bhukhi, which is 7.5 km long and connected to the Vishwamitri River. Initially they thought it was a nala (drain) but on the mapping it turned out to be a natural stream, which was not even marked by the municipality because small systems like these are often overlooked.

Digging deep, they discovered that it had been clogged with plastic and solid waste to such an extent that there was no movement of animals, especially the crocodiles that previously plagued its waters.

The team removed 700kg of plastic waste and in the end, the crocodiles that they only saw once a year during the rains, began to appear regularly, with the team continuing to monitor them.

Rukmani Devi Katara

Married at 13, Rukmani Devi Katara life would have been confined to a behind ghungat if she hadn’t had the will to take it in hand.

The first step towards change was when Rukmani was introduced to the Rajasthan State Rural Livelihood Mission or Rajeevika, who encouraged her to start a Self Help Group (SHG) in her village of Dungarpur, Rajasthan.

Thanks to this foundation, SHG members have been able to start their own small businesses. Some were buying cows and buffaloes while Rukmani launched a Kirana village shop.

However, it was the Dungarpur Initiative launched by IIT-Bombay in 2016 that really changed the lives of Rukmani and the women of the region.

Led by Professor Chetan Singh Solanki, Solar Saheli was launched as part of the SoUL project in collaboration with Rajeevika and the district administration which organized four clusters of SHGs in the region.

Rukmani and other women have been trained in assembling solar panels. The presidents of the four clusters – d’Antri, Biladi, Jhontri and Punali – then signed a memorandum of understanding with IIT-Bombay to start manufacturing solar panels and lamps. The entity was named Dungarpur Renewable Energy Technologies Private Limited (Durga Energy).

Initially, Rukmani worked as an employee of Durga Energy. She was promoted to supervisor and within a year became CEO of the company.

Each Solar Saheli earns between Rs 8,000 and 16,000 per month. Her vision for the company is to grow the team of women from 55 to over 1,000 and reach all parts of the state and eventually the country.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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