A Short Reflection…

It has been a little over a month since we’ve returned from India and the trip now seems as if it were almost a dream. By now we’ve all settled into our familiar lives and transitioned back into our old routines and mindsets. Some of us are back at school, while others, like myself, have begun new careers. The things we encountered in India seem so very far away.

When I reflect back on my time in India to my friends and family I tend to approach it in a different way than I had just a few months ago. Back when I had first spoken of my plans to travel to India, my trip had been completely romanticized. Now, I speak about my time in India with a certain familiarity that I feel one can only have when they travel into the heart of India – away from all tourist destinations and luxury resorts. When I look back, what most comes to mind is the people I encountered and those who I was able to spend time with.

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Those who I came to spend time constantly reappear in my mind and with their faces I am reminded of the poverty I encountered and my mind once again boggles at the widespread problems they endure. It is still hard to wrap my head around the basic, fundamental issues that were lacking from most of the lives that I encountered. To go back to my thoughts from my previous post, I think what really needs to be done to help bring people out of poverty is a simple sounding solution – education. With education, individuals can grow up with skills, an understanding of their rights, and countless other advantages that will work to keep them, and the future generations they bring into this world, out of poverty.

From a Western perspective, providing education seems quite simple. However, when you go into a country with over 1,500 different dialects and languages, over one billion people, and a deep rooted caste system and set of cultural values, implementation of education is far from simple. How is it possible to provide a solid education when many don’t have the luxury of taking time out of their day to learn? Or how can we educate the poor when they don’t even have the means to get themselves to school? There are countless questions like these that I ask myself when trying to figure out a “universal” way to spread education.

– Claire Clark –

Half of the population is bleeding

 

“Half of the population is bleeding,” the Director of Eco Femme reminded us. Some form of sanitary napkin is essential for all women between fifteen and fifty.
The modern sanitary napkin is made out of gel and plastic, and takes 800 years to biodegrade. When I heard this, I was in shock…Why is it that we are not better informed about these problems around the world? Why are most of the educated women on the planet using disposable pads instead of more ecological and environmentally friendly methods?
Once I switched into the ‘unconscious right’ by using Eco Femme’s washable pads and diva cup (a silicon blood collector worn internally) I felt better about not polluting the landfills monthly with dozens of pads that would each take 800 years to disintegrate. I can definitely attest that the Eco Femme pads and the diva cup are comfortable! Any women reading this should definitely try them, and any men reading this should recommend these alternative solutions to wives, daughters, cousins, aunts, and female friends.
After learning about Eco Femme, as soon as I got my next period I thought that I should try this new solution and see how it went… I began by cleaning my new diva cup with the little soap sheets inside the packet. I put the diva cup to boil for 20 minutes, and rinsed it with cold water. Then I followed the instructions that come with the cup: fold the cup in half, push it in while holding it. Once the cup is inside, you are not aware of it. I had to check if it was still there at one point because I thought, wow, it feels like nothing at all. You wear the cup all day and pull it out at night. I like to switch to pads sometimes during the day and especially at night. The pads are very comfortable; more comfortable than plastic pads from the supermarket. I switched pads three to four times a day, and would simply let the pads set in water after having rubbed them with soap. They dried on my towel dryers.
If you switch to Eco Femme you will make a difference to the environment. Imagine how many pads or tampons one woman goes through in a day, a week, a month, a year. The diva cup lasts six years, it’s comfortable and it’s cheap–far cheaper than the plastic pads and tampons you buy at the supermarket. Trust me, Eco Femme pads and the diva cup are the best way to go because you will also feel relieved that your cycle is not hurting the environment anymore.
The Eco Femme washable pads are currently sold in 17 different countries. You can order them online on the Eco Femme website. Some cups are also available in pharmacies.
The Director of Eco Femme talked to us at length about health education. Eco femme teaches low-income Indian woman to make its washable cloth pads. The Director told us that she was curious to find out what sanitary methods Indian women now use: to find out how many women have switched to disposable pads, and how much are they paying for these plastic pads? What are the social constructs involved? The Eco Femme study discovered that 50 % of Indian women use disposable pads.
Menstruation is culturally very complex. Women in Indian cultures relate to menstruation in a different manner from how we deal with menstruation in Western countries. For example, when Indian women have their periods, they are not allowed to go to the temple or prepare food, because they are considered dirty. Regarding tampons: Indian women are actively discouraged from the insertion of any products inside their bodies. It is considered part of the shame of touching one’s self and provokes accusations of damaged virginity. The majority of Indian girls know nothing about menstruation before they have their periods. Consequently, better communication and education about menstrual hygiene is critical and needs to take place around the world, not just in India.

 

– Chelsea Carter

Organization: Eco Femme

Contact: Kathy

E-mail: kathy@ecofemme.org

Website: wwww.ecofemme.org

You asked me why I am so enthusiastic

You asked me why I am so enthusiastic. Well, that’s because I count what I have rather than what I don’t. I have a family, friends, a school, a roof, food, clean water, freedom to express myself and to do what I want to. I think about all the people who have nothing. People who no longer have a family because their country is torn apart by war, people who no longer have a house because it exploded, people who must travel many miles to find—maybe—a better life. I think about small kids who walk miles to school if they even have one, people who walk miles to find water, people who wait in line hours for bread, people who do not have the ‘right’ to express themselves because if they protest they are killed. I think about people who have many more problems than we do and who are still positive, smiling even as they try to keep the tears from coming, and who keep moving. I think about all these people and decide that I too will keep moving.

-Chelsea Carter

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back

So often, we do not know where our food, our clothes, or anything else that we buy comes from. We live in a world of consumerism where people are pushed to buy more and more. One of the Dailai Lama quotes perfectly describes the world we currently live in.

“We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgement;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but we have trouble crossing the street to meet
the new neighbour.
We built more computers to hold more
information to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communication;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods
but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It’s a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.”

H.H The XIVth Dalai Lama

            What can we learn from this experience? What can we bring back from Auroville? How can we live better in a city of concrete, apartment buildings, pollution, cars and never-ending consumption?
There are practical ways to start. How can we eat better? How can we buy better? We need to get into the space of ‘unconscious right’ that Ribou spoke about at Wasteless. Let’s make our carbon footprints as small as possible. Let’s support the green markets. Let’s use cloth bags instead of plastic; let’s reduce the amount of plastic we use. Let’s buy in thrift shops and exchange clothing online. Let’s use our clothes washers and especially our driers less often. Let’s use washable pads or diva cups. Let’s buy cosmetics and creams made from natural products and that have not been tested on animals. Let’s read the labels and let’s do the research: let’s ask ourselves a million questions about how we live and what we consume. Our future depends on it.

-Chelsea Carter

Let’s make sure this New Year changes

Let’s make sure this New Year changes for the better and that troubles such as war, terrorism, domestic violence, famine, disease, pollution, corruption, hurricanes, droughts, floods, deteriorating economy, and religious intolerance decrease or come to an end.
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”- Edith Lovejoy Pierce.

Chelsea Carter

The Impossible is Possible

By Mia Windisch-Graetz

Three dead bodies carried away by a bunch of six-legged murderers – in India one can have interesting encounters in the bathroom. I will never forget the moment when I discovered an ant colony that evidently split into three small groups in order to carry away three (still living) wasps. Attracted by the light in the sanitary facility, the wasps apparently got tired and while having a rest, they offered the perfect opportunity for an ambush attack by a hungry ant family.

Screen shot 2016-02-18 at 2.13.45 PM(Unfortunately, one can’t embed a video, so WATCH it HERE)

Without a doubt, an ant alone has no chance to defeat a wasp, but their teamwork as well as their extraordinary communication skills make them invincible.

Ants are considered as one of the best communicators among all beings worldwide: The lone ant follows the path marked earlier by her companions. Along the way, if it stumbles into a giant wasp that would feed many in their family, it releases a complex cocktail of chemicals to summon reinforcements which soon arrive. Not only do they know how to find the hunt, but they also bring the necessary tools and personnel to kill the wasp and bring the body back to their nest.

It sounds scary but is indeed clever: The ants’ efficiency at foraging has even inspired business and computer problem–solvers, who are looking for new techniques to come up with quality answers in the quickest time.

However, the wasp itself was never regarded as a problem. Instead, they transformed the ‘problem’ into a solution from the start. We should consider these brilliant little beings in the bathroom as role models. By transforming waste, ‘the problem’, into something useful through recycling, we kind of already did. Also, by creating communities, such as Auroville, that unifies people with similar aspirations in order to change the world and make it a more sustainable place, we kind of already did.

Furthermore, this encounter reminded me of our group: How they carry something big together, they move things together, solve problems together, think and act collectively, help and support each other.

Let’s do it the anty way and make the seemingly impossible possible. Let’s move things together that seem to be too big for an individual to carry. Let’s fight together against these waspish wasps, no matter if they are called Monsanto, pollution or waste.

UNESCO World Radio Day 2016

By Lory Martinez

Before coming to AUP, I worked as the news director of my college radio station. I spent my undergraduate years editing and producing radio stories and eventually interned in public radio. I had developed skills in radio production, which for many of my friends, was a useless dying medium. I was told countless times that people prefer visual media, and that maybe I should crossover to video since Youtube was taking over. While slightly true, I always felt like radio still had value.  

And when my friends back home started listening to Sarah Koeing’s “Serial,” I was excited to see  the resurgence in appreciation for audio production. But you see, appreciation for radio comes and goes with the changing times. Gone are the days where it is the first and only source of information in many households, at least in the United States.

However, in many developing countries, it is precisely this “dying medium” that reigns. And it is a medium with such versatility that it can be installed and broadcast just about anywhere.

Tamil Nadu is home to more community radio stations than any other state in India. And up until now there was no real protocol for radio to be used in times of disaster.

This year, the annual monsoon season caused unprecedented flooding in Chennai, Cuddalore and Pondicherry.

With the help of the government, a team of community radio organizers put together an emergency radio station to broadcast in FM to the Cuddalore district during and after the floods. They created an open helpline for people to send their information to the relief workers via the station.

I worked on a panel discussion on the success of this Emergency Radio Station for UNESCO World Radio Day 2016 featuring community members and government officials, who worked together to save lives during the floods. The theme this year is Radio in times of Emergency and Disaster, highlighting the use of radio as a lifesaving medium of communication during and after natural disasters all over the world.

You’ll find the track below. 

Listen Live all day February 13 on the World Radio Day 2016 site

And for those of you who can’t wait to listen to other amazing stories about radio to be broadcast around the world, check out the Soundcloud.

Special Thanks to the Auroville Radio Team and to the good folks over at the Cuddalore Station who helped make this happen.