Leaping into the Void: How It’s the Best Decision You’ll Ever Make – Sharad Poornima’s Story

We all have doubts about what we can achieve and whether we alone can make a difference in this world. For many of us these doubts debilitate us from taking that first giant step toward action. But one day I took that step, and it changed my life completely.

I have always had an interest in the environment. I used to read the newspapers every morning and watch the news on TV every night. I thought I understood what was causing Delhi’s pollution and believed it would eventually get fixed, but I never understood the full extent of the issue. Following the news I witnessed the situation go from bad to worse. It was then I decided to do something about it.

While I never really believed that I alone could make a difference, I couldn’t sit back and watch us destroy our environment. When I thought about the legacy I wanted to leave for my children, and my children’s children I knew I had to try to do my bit to make the world they will grow up in just that little bit better. So when members from Haiyya’s Youth4Environment Fellowship approached me, I jumped on-board and decided I was going to do whatever I could to help save Delhi’s environment.

Deciding to take action was both one of the hardest and easiest decisions of my life. In our rapidly globalised world people are completely engrossed in their own lives and are unwilling to look beyond their homes and their own interests at the world and society surrounding them. It is easy to forget the environment is everyone’s responsibility. It is what provides for us, it is where we live, and yet we don’t seem to care that we’re destroying it. People’s initial resistance was incredibly disheartening. But eventually with persistence I found that people listened and followed and were able to achieve the unimaginable.

I have been overwhelmed at the support I have received from the youth in my community, who have gone above and beyond what I could have ever expected. I am immensely proud that I have been able to inspire young adults within my community with my own small actions and my own passion.

Joining the fellowship has not only taught me so much about how I can help the environment through simple everyday actions, but also about myself and my own potential. If you had told me that I alone could make a difference and lead an action across my community I would never have believed you. But I now know I can engage others and help them make an impact in their own lives, which has given me confidence in myself. I am proud of my own accomplishments, but I am prouder of what those around me have achieved. I believe that if we all decide to act we can leave this world better than we found it.

Taking action is always a sacrifice. But it is a sacrifice worth making as you will discover things about yourself and your own potential, abilities and passions that you otherwise would never realise you possessed. Through my journey I have realised I am not just a drop in an ocean and that I alone can make a change.  



What is Waste Segregation and Why Should We do it?

Everyday Delhi produces over 8,000 metric tonnes of waste. It’s predicted the entire city of Delhi will be covered by waste by 2047.

What is waste segregation?

Waste segregation is the practice of splitting up our waste into dry and wet categories.

How can you do it?

By splitting up our waste into two bins we can recycle dry waste and compost wet waste. Communities can also set up large storage drums where wet and dry waste can be deposited, or compost bins where wet waste is able to biodegrade.

Why should we do it?

Not all waste has to go to landfill, around 500 tonnes of waste can be recycled in Delhi per day. By splitting up our waste less waste will go to landfill and there will be less pollution in our environment. By not separating our waste we are wasting valuable resources that can be recycled and reused, especially plastics, metals and paper. Some waste also contains chemicals which are released into the atmosphere when they are burned, emitting greenhouse gases which add to Delhi’s already polluted air. Improper waste disposal also pollutes our streets where we live, the water we drink and the air that we breathe.

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Why do we need Environmental Protection?

The air in Delhi is toxic. Air pollution levels are 16 times higher than the recommended limit – the effects of breathing the air equal to smoking 45 cigarettes a day. Dangerously high levels of pollution are caused by an array of factors ranging from crop burning to vehicular pollution, improper waste removal and infrastructure pollution. The World Health Organisation has estimated approximately 1.2 million people die prematurely annually, with air pollution reducing life expectancy by 3.4 years across India and 6.3 years in Delhi alone. There have also been reports of:

  • Increased heart disease;
  • Aggravated allergies;
  • Stroke;
  • Lung and cardiac failures;
  • Premature births and low birth weights;
  • Chronic headaches;
  • Eye and skin irritation and;
  • Higher risks of cancer, all as a result of pollution.

What can we do?

To reduce the risk of creating more pollution and contributing to climate change, steps must be taken to protect the environment. By limiting infrastructure dust, introducing waste segregation and solar energy Delhi can help remedy the problem rather than contribute to it. India has an abundance of renewable resources, which if utilised can create jobs, boost the economy and pull millions from below the poverty line. Protecting the environment keeps the atmosphere cool, slows down climate change, reduces solar radiation, stabilises pollution, provides food and income, protects animals, ensures economic stability and increased physical health.

What will happen if we don’t protect our environment?

We must protect our environment in order to secure our future, because if we don’t the livelihoods of the 80% of Indians who rely on the agrarian economy will be in jeopardy. India’s biodiversity will also be at risk, threatening food, water and resources supplies. It has been predicted without environmental protection climate change will result in:

  • Higher frequency of unprecedented spells of hot weather;
  • Unpredictability of the monsoon season;
  • Frequent droughts;
  • Falling crop yields;
  • Falling water tables;
  • Rising sea levels which will impact agriculture, degrade water quality and contaminate drinking water;
  • Reductions in rice and wheat production;
  • Increased risk of landslides and flash floods;
  • The rise of disease and infection;
  • Water shortages and;
  • An increase in climate refugees, leading to further overpopulation.

If we don’t protect the environment we face a bleak, hard future. But if we do act, we are ensuring a better quality of life for our own generation, and those of the future.


Haiyya’s Youth4Environment Fellows have been taking initiatives by launching their own citizen led campaigns focusing on various issues like solar, dust and waste. They are putting their best efforts in taking their campaigns to a new height by collaborating with RWA’s, local leaders and civic authority officials to fight against the wrong done to Environment and combat Climate Change problem. For more information, you can take a look at the Fellows Stage One Report here.


Environmental protection (1)

Citizen Led Campaigns Across Delhi Go Live: Youth4Environment Newsletter #2


Citizens across Delhi have come out to protect the environment, challenge the authorities and take action by mobilizing their neighbourhood residents and RWA. These individual campaigns are a part of a larger movement which empowers Delhiites to take community actions and stand up to make a sustainable change.

Read more about these inspiring stories and young leaders in our Youth4Environment September Newsletter.

These young campaigners are supported through the Youth4Environment Fellowship Program spearheaded by URJA (United Residents Joint Action) the apex body of RWA’s, Haiyya (a non-profit campaigning organization) and Help Delhi Breathe (a citizen coalition group).

Youth4Environment Fellowship Program ignites ordinary citizen action through neighborhood level environment campaigns. It is the first collaboration between youth leaders and their local RWA’s, bridging the generational gap often found at local community level and mobilizing all to adopt local climate solutions.

Delhi Youth Unite to Protect the Environment

On the 10th and 11th of June, 2017, the Youth4Environment fellowship officially launched with a two day training session.


The Fellows with the team

This is the first program of its kind, tapping into the under-utilised resource that is the RWA network and empowering young people to create change on a local level. The Fellows come from all across Delhi, representing different neighbourhoods, age groups, and walks of life. The one thing they all share is a passion for the environment, and a belief that they can make a difference.





A few of the Fellows at the training

With the support of all of the organisations involved, these Fellows are working to create campaigns on environmental issues that matter to them, no affect their local community directly. Their campaigns will address a range of subjects including solar power, waste segregation and green mobility, and engage with volunteers from the community to create long lasting, sustainable change.



Brainstorming campaign ideas

Through inter-generational collaboration and community involvement, the Fellows hope to address urgent issues facing not only their neighbourhoods but also the planet as a whole. As Sahej, a Youth4Environment Fellow, puts it, “environmental issues are important because it’s our own home and our own rivers that we are polluting. We are writing our own obituaries.” But the Fellows are determined to change this. “Everyone has a part to play and a responsibility towards the environment. I am playing my part,” Aryan, another of the fellows, said.


A guest speaker addressing the Fellows

Hosted at the YWCA in Connaught Place, the two training days were a chance for the newly inducted Fellows and members of the involved RWAs to meet each other, and pick up some of the vital skills that they will need to run successful environmental campaigns. A number of expert panelists addressed the Fellows, including Sunil Dahiya, Greenpeace India Campaigner; Rajiv Dinesh, Co- Founder and CEO of Sunfund Renewable; YK Chawla, Energy Advisor, Government of India and Sarika Panda Bhatt, Manager, World Resources Institute. The Fellows left even more invigorated and excited about the months ahead, and many have already started work, hosting meetings and events within their communities.

Shashi Issar, a Youth4Environment Fellow from Ashok Vihar, recently arranged for Greenpeace India’s Solar Bus initiative to visit his community and educate people about solar energy. This bus also visited Jorbagh, where Fellow Manya Berri is working to educate her community about the benefits of solar energy. Another Fellow, Mitali Chakraborty, held a plantation drive which planted 50 trees in an effort to green up his South Delhi neighbourhood. And this is just the very beginning. It will no doubt be inspiring to see what these otherwise ordinary citizens can achieve over the next few months.


The solar bus


Inside the solar bus

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Youth4Environment Fellowship Launch


Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 11.37.37 am.pngOn World Environment Day this year we are all being encouraged to go outside and reconnect with nature. Sadly, air pollution in Delhi is so chronic that spending time outside could seriously damage your health. Each year 30,000 people die from air pollution related diseases.

“Citizens and active youth have decided join hands and  take action against Delhi’s polluted air – it’s time to make a difference. This is a unique opportunity for the youth to be leaders in their communities and take onus for a cleaner environment and take ACTION to stop further damage by thinking of innovative community level solutions” added Sukhmani from Haiyya while inaugurating the Youth4Environment Fellowship Program at Delhi Clean Air Forum’s meetup on June 5th.

On the 10th and 11th of June The Youth4Environment Fellowship Program, will be launched through a two-day training at the YWCA in Connaught Place, New Delhi.

The training will focus on campaigning skills and issue expertise and will include various themes such as:

  • Delhi’s Air Condition
  • Building grassroots power through organizing & campaigning
  • Public Narrative, Possible solutions at the community level
  • Making a Campaign Plans to take action in the community
  • Building Relationships with the community
  • Building Teams through a sustainable ‘Snowflake’ Model wherein you identify and enable other team members  

The Youth4Environment Fellowship Program  has been created by URJA (United Residents Joint Action) the apex body of RWA’s, Haiyya (a non-profit campaigning Organization) and Help Delhi Breathe (a citizen coalition group).

Youth4Environment Fellowship Program ignites ordinary citizen action through neighborhood level environment campaigns. It is the first collaboration between youth leaders and their local RWA’s, bridging the generational gap often found at local community level and mobilizing all to adopt local climate solutions.

These campaigns are the first opportunity for ordinary citizens to make a difference through:

  • Intergenerational collaboration
  • Utilizing local levels of governance
  • Inspiring and supporting youth advocates to lead on community leadership

We hope to see a greater participation and synergy between the RWA executives and the youth in their respective neighbourhoods/communities​. All your economic growth and wealth would be useless without good health which is directly correlated to your environment.” Ashutosh Dikshit, CEO, URJA.

The Youth4Environment Fellowship is a 4-month program through which 20 Fellows (young leaders) will be selected to run their individual campaigns on various issues including solar power, mobility or waste segregation in New Delhi. The Fellowship programme aims equip the fellows  to facilitate on ground campaigns with local level solutions to combat environmental concerns to achieve a larger vision of a cleaner and greener Delhi.

For more information please contact

Sukhmani Grover (Senior Program Manager, Haiyya)

+91 9871446720


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Blogger Series #9: Health Over Stigma

Continuing our Blogger Series as a part of our Health Over Stigma campaign unmarried women from all around India are sharing their stories/experiences related to the stigma we face in regards to our body, sexual health & desires. It is only through starting an open and safe dialogue can we end the stigma and normalize these conversations. Read more about our Week of Action here.


Once at a party when I was in school me and my friends were playing a drinking game ‘never have I ever’. One of the guys said ‘Never have I ever masturbated’ he sneered it at the girls. Every single dude sitting there chugged a shot and so did I because as a normal 17 year old I of course have and quite enjoyed masturbating. To my shock my other girlfriends just sat there and stared at each other. I felt betrayed & bemused. I could not fathom the fact that none of them had masturbated before or maybe that none of them would admit to doing so in public. To be honest it pissed me off because I felt like I was being ostracised and singled out as overly sexual – I gaffed “none of you have ever touched yourself before?”. I was met with a staunch & collective ‘nope”.  
I think that experience was important because I knew that women have desires as everyone else. I never questioned if I was ‘normal’ or not. However that day taught me that my school friends wouldn’t judge me nonetheless they would not be open to expressing sexual desires the way I was. I had to find a community of women who were like me & through Health Over Stigma I finally have.