‘Our Grandparents Wouldn’t Use Toilets’

OUR Small Talk for this week is a tad different. We are celebrating ‘November For Kids’ at Small Change, focusing on children and highlighting issues they deal with. So this week, instead of talking to a leader in the development sector, we talk to three teenagers who are supported by Mountain Children’s Foundation (MCF) based in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. 

MCF work towards empowering disadvantaged children and equipping them with knowledge and skills to address environmental concerns and spread awareness about it within their communities. They encourage them to form Bal Sangathans (children’s groups) in different regions in and around Dehradun and become the voice of change in their villages and take collective action for the betterment of their communities.

Here 17-year-old Meenakshi Chauhan, Ankita Kohli, 14, and Yogesh Kumar, 15 – all first generation school-goers of rural families – answer a few questions for us.

Small Change: How old were you when you joined a Bal Sangathan? Is there any one change that it has brought in you, in the way you see things?

Meenakshi: I was 10 years old when I joined. It was after being a part of the group that I realised the importance of cleanliness, became aware of my rights and became a more confident speaker. Before I was afraid of public speaking but now I go on stage and talk without hesitation.  

Ankita: I joined at the age of nine. Before I would throw waste in public places but have now become aware that we should throw rubbish only in the dustbin. Ever since my family and I, including young kids, ensure that we throw all our garbage in dustbins.

Yogesh: I was six or seven years old. After joining the group, I became aware of the different ways to keep our environment clean. I also talk to my friends about it and we make sure we don’t throw toffee wrappers in public places.

I also gained knowledge about child rights and the different kinds of help available for underprivileged kids to rise above our circumstances.

SC: Have you ever convinced an adult to see your point of view about their lifestyle and the environment or maybe to give up a bad habit? If so, how did you do that and what did you make them do?

M: We did a play in our village to about the environment through which we tried to tell them the importance of having a toilet at home and not use public places as their toilets as it’s unhygienic and makes the environment dirty. Moreover, it can also become breeding ground for mosquitoes and spread diseases.

Our grandparents wouldn’t use toilets even if there were toilets but now after we explained it to them, they have started using them.

A: Few years ago, while going to a Bal Sangathan meeting, I saw an older woman throwing her home waste into another person’s house. When I went to the meeting, I told this to our supervisor. She suggested that we do a play about it in the upcoming children’s fair. We invited the old woman to watch our play and she realised what she was doing was wrong. After that has never repeated the act.

Y: A lot of the adults have told us that during their time no one talked about pollution, global warming and climate change. But now we tell them about why we should keep the environment clean and healthy, they have become more aware and are changing their age-old habits.

SC: What three things can our readers can do to save the environment?

M: One, people shouldn’t cut trees. But if they do, they should plant one too. If the number of trees in our environment decreases then it will disrupt the balance. Two, we should reduce the use of vehicles. We should either walk or use a cycle. Three, we shouldn’t use the refrigerator too much because they emit harmful gases such as CFC which harms the environment.

A: First and most important, we should always remember to reuse, recycle and refuse. Second, we shouldn’t use plastic because when we burn them toxic gases are released into the environment. And third, we should oppose cutting of trees.

Y: Adding to that, we can all do our bit in very simple ways. For example, when you go shopping, take your own container or bag and buy loose stuff to avoid plastic and glass packaging.

SC: Is there a place in India or anywhere else you would like to visit? Why?

M: I want to go to Mumbai because there you can get everything. It’s called ‘city of dreams’ and I have heard it’s a nice place to go for a visit.

A: I want to go to the Forest Research Institute in Dehradun because there I will get know of a lot of interesting things about trees.

Y: I want to go to Agra to see Taj Mahal once. I have seen it in photos and also heard that it’s very beautiful.

If you want to help two bright MCF kids complete their education, click here.

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