Changemaking for gender equity in disaster relief and climate resilience

Sagarika was elected an Ashoka Young Changemaker from India in May 2022. This story was written through a consultative process during their selection to our global community.

Sagarika started her organization ‘Maan ki Umeed’ with an aim to address issues of social inequality faced by underprivileged youth. “I decided to come up with an organization focusing on 4 E's and 1 S, which are Education, Empowerment, Employment, and Service. We aim to employ the untapped potential of the youth of our country in order to help people achieve these four aspects”, she explained.

The team of 50 works to create an impact in various sectors of society through their multiple projects revolving around gender equality, menstrual hygiene management, environment, and education. One such project called “Swacchata ki Umeed” attempted to combat the prevalent river pollution in the famous Brahmaputra in Assam. “Brahmaputra river is a major source of water in Assam and it's sad to see how the river is getting polluted more and more every day. My team and I took an initiative called " Swacchata ki Umeed " and made a goal to clean the river banks. We were featured in many regional newspapers and news channels, and inspired by us many youth-based organizations have come forward with the same aim to clean the river banks”, Sagarika recalled.

“Flood Doesn’t Stop Menstruation” was a project through which they went on to create dual awareness about the severe floods that ravaged Assam and the consequent menstruation-related problems it caused for the people who menstruate. “As floods continue for months, people find it hard to manage their menstruation as there is a lack of supply of pads and so far, nobody was donating pads. Our campaign raised a voice to make menstrual hygiene an important priority and asked everyone working to add pad packets to their ration kits for the affected people. Many people came forward in the movement and stormed Instagram and Twitter with slogans " FLOOD DOESN'T STOP MENSTRUATION" and soon it was identified by many news organizations and bigger NGOs like Goonj. We were able to donate about 10,000 pads through these collaborations”, she explained.

They went on to collaborate with other organizations and go on menstruation drives “wherein we reached out to the government schools' students and explained the importance of menstrual hygiene and talked about the taboos relating menstruation. We even reached out to underprivileged women and donated about 15000 pads.”

To tackle the scarcity of food and clothes created by the pandemic, amongst the underprivileged in their community, the team led ‘Project Aahar’. Through this project, they were able to reach out to about 3500 families from 5 districts of Assam.

Reflecting on future plans, she said, “Our team believes in keeping bigger goals but we focus on the smaller ones first to reach out to the bigger ones. In the next few years, our team hopes to build a more strong and powerful organization and help and impact the lives of many.” She wants to works with underprivileged children by helping them get a primary-level education as well as guidance and exposure to enable them to be future leaders. “We also plan to support small start-ups and give them more exposure by promoting them on our social media handles. We hope to build start-ups for single mothers, underprivileged women or any women in the need of a job, we want to make them independent”, she said. She would also like to create specific initiatives that focus solely on the North-eastern diaspora and the unique challenges faced by them.

This story was written by Prachi Vats.