Daily Archives: November 11, 2019

#YoungChangeMakers: Meet India’s 11-Year- Old Climate Activist – Ridhima Pandey

In August 2018, when the then 15-year-old Greta Thunbergsat alone outside the Swedish Parliament for her first school strike, who would have thought in just one year it would become such a big movement? In no time, climate crisis that was otherwise often considered intellectual became the talk of the town. Right from children and youth, to the people in power demanded a cleaner planet for a peaceful future. 

Did you know that alongside Greta, India’s very own girl from Uttrakhand filled the UN petition too? Meet 11-year-old Ridhima Pandey from Uttrakhand, who was one of the 16 children to have filled a legal complaint to protest the lack of government action against the climate summit. 

Six years ago, Ridhima, moved with her family from Nainital to Haridwar. “Every year in July, there is a festival called Kanwar Yatra, which incorporates and is held near the holy Ganges River. But recently, it is much hotter in the summer and winter months. The hotter temperatures have threatened the Ganges River, which now faces lowering water levels from recent droughts – challenging the continuation of the religious rituals that are centred around it.,” Ridhima says in the ChildrenVsClimateCrisis website.

“The few times it does rain, it rains very heavily. The rain causes the Ganges to reach the danger mark, threatening floods, and the increasingly intense rainstorms overwhelm the local infrastructure. In 2013, Ridhima and her family experienced one such devastating rainstorm in Haridwar that resulted in flooding and many casualties,” it adds. 

Her bio in the website also stated, “I want a better future. I want to save my future. I want to save our future. I want to save the future of all the children and all people of future generations.”
However, this isn’t her first foray into environmental activism. When Ridhima was just 9, she filled a petition post the Uttrakhand floods where she had asked the government to prepare a carbon budget and a climate recovery plan.In her petition, she argued that “India is one of the most vulnerable countries to be affected by climate change”.

Ridhima got interested in climate change, when her father, wildlife conversationalist started talking to her about global warming because she was always curious about the environment. Ridhima is starting her own non-profit group on climate action. “I don’t want to suffer, because it’s our right to have cleaner water, to live in a healthy environment, to have cleaner air,” she said. “And they” – governments around the world – “are violating our rights,” said Ridhima in an interview.

#YoungChangemakers – Meet Payal Working To Abolish Child Marriage In Rajasthan

At the tender age of 11, when most children are busy with their daily dose of homework, little Payal had to fight the most difficult battle with her own parents. Hailing from Hinsla village which is 100 km from Jaipur, she relented against being married off and was able to stop her child marriage by raising her voice against her parents will. At 11, she did not know what child marriage meant, but she had heard her mentors speak about the ill effects of child marriage and she immediately reported it to Sumedha Kailash, a well-known child rights activist who helped her negotiate with her parents to stop the child marriage. Ever since then, Payal Jangid has tirelessly worked to eradicate child marriage in her village and the nearby villages. 

The gritty 17-year-old has mobilised groups of children to fight against the caste, panchayat system and societal systems to win the battle against child marriage. She has not only stopped parents from forcing their children to get into child marriage, but urged them to send their daughters to school. 

Payal was elected as the leader of the child parliament; a youth forum that escalates issues to the Mayor.Earlier in September this year, Payal became the first Indian to receive the changemaker award by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2017, she also received the Young Achiever Award by Reebok

In a video posted on the international NGO’s Twitter account, Payal described, “We have a lot of problems in our village, especially girls are not allowed to go out and study and they are married off early. Even I was forced to get married.”

Talking about the initiatives, she added, “We would organise rallies, posters, paint walls, go house to house, speak to the families. We had to work really hard to make the elders realise that they were prohibiting us from getting our education.”

In Rajasthan and many parts of India, child marriage is still seen as a ritual more than a crime. According to the fourth National Family Health Survey (2015-16) of India, 27% of females are less than 18 years are married off and in Rajasthan alone the percentage of girls is 35. Payal is carving a path and inspiring more and more girls to remain in schools instead of getting married.

Gayatri Nadar: Dharavi's only female rapper

#YoungChangemakers: This Gully Girl is Dharavi’s Only Female Rapper

“Ladko ke beech mein main hoon ek stree mera naam hai Gayatri.” That’s how 16-year-old Gayatri Naddar, Dharavi’s only female hip hop artist introduces herself. The feisty teenager adopted her alter ego- ‘’Iccy Fire’ because being on stage makes her look cool and she performs with a fire in her belly. Gayatri’s music questions the gendered stereotypes, the challenges that she faces growing up in a conservative society which has a different set of rules for boys and girls. 

Hip-hop was an alien term for Gayatri until she first heard a few guys at an annual function beatbox and she wondered what the sound was called. Her curiosity led her to join free classes held by the Dharavi Art Project, an organisation that teaches rap, music and graffiti to children of Dharavi. 

“Ladka log(rap) kar rahe the jabhi mereko bhi laga ki main bhi kar sakti hoon. So maine jaake un logo se poocha ki yeh kaise kartain hain? Woh log bol rahain the- Tu ladki hai, tu yeh nahi kar paayegi. Lekin main unko boli -Main yeh kar paaongi! Maine ek saal main beatboxing aur rap seekh gayi,” shares Gayatri, in a video in Quint. 

However, Gayatri’s journey hasn’t been all that easy. She faced resistance from her parents who did not consider rap as a “good” form of music and often associated with drugs and substance abuse. She would bunk school and tuition to be able to attend the practice sessions. However, with the constant motivation from Dharavi Art Project, her parents realised that rap was all about self-expression than substance abuse. 

“When I started, I was the only girl in a group full of guys, which led to a feeling of guilt. I am a South Indian girl toh aise allowed nahi hai, aise bahar jaana (we aren’t allowed to engage in activities like this and go outside)Bahar log sochte hai ki hip-hop sirf drugs aur nashe ke bare mein hai, toh beti log ka naam kharab hoga (People have misconceptions that hip-hop is all about drugs and alcohol and that letting their daughter do it will spoil her perception in society),” she shares in an interview with Vice.

Today, Gayatri has had several stage performances and the once shy and reticent girl has found her expression through rap. 

While the movie Gully Boy has popularised the underground movement in India, the rawness of rap is not new to Dharavi, often said to be the birthplace of Hip Hop where many found expression through it. However, it is still a genre picked up by more by boys and men than girls. 

What’s the reason for this one would wonder and Dolly Rateshwar one of the founding members of the Dharavi Art Project had seemed to have a fair explanation for this in the article in Vice. “Dharavi was considered to be an aggressive place, and domestic violence and drug influence is present even today. So, parents are more protective about their daughters compared to their sons,” She further adds, “If you see the layout of ghettos like this, houses are very close to each other so there’s no privacy and whatever is being spoken about in one house is easily audible to the neighbour next door. So girls are informed to keep themselves low. That pressure remains on them.”

While Gayatri has been the first female rapper from Dharavi amidst all the baintai’s (brothers), other gully girls too can get inspired. Well because Apna Time Aayega!