Saturday, 30 October 2021

Thrifting - A Sustainable Virtue

The Department of Sociology and Social Work Student Association, in collaboration with Millennium Fellowship (Class of 2021), presented this refreshing Webinar on Thrifting - A Sustainable Virtue. The two speakers invited, Ms Kinjal Jain and Ms Punya Chhajer, run successful thrift store online businesses on Instagram. The course of this Webinar followed an interactive question-answer session moderated by Manisha D from 3MSW HRDM and Keerti Narayanan from 3PSEco.
To better understand the concept of Thrifting, Ms Punya introduced us to some of the essential concepts related to thrifting. She spoke about Fast Fashion, Ethical Fashion, Sustainable Fashion and Slow Fashion.
Fast fashion is a highly profitable and exploitative business model based on replicating catwalk trends and high fashion design at a mass scale at a low cost. Most of these clothes are made by workers with low wages in deplorable conditions below the poverty line. Ethical fashion focuses on human and animal rights which implies good working conditions, fair wages, pensions and fair treatment of humans and animals—maintaining a balanced ecosystem while respecting animals and our environment and designing fashion garments according to ethical guidelines.
Sustainable fashion is being concerned about the environment. It includes a fashion with recyclable, organic fibres, which can also be repurposed. Fashion items with minimal chemical fibres, toxic dyes, and less virtual water and energy consumption are sustainable. Slow fashion emphasises the importance of quality over quantity. It tries to understand the nuances behind clothing. The shelf life of a particular piece of clothing should be at least more than two years, and the company that manufactured the clothing should be transparent enough to reveal its policies and practices.
Ms Kinjal added to the discussion by covering the environmental impact of fast fashion on oceans due to microplastics and microfibres taking over the marine ecosystem. Promoting second-hand wear requires a change in mentality; Fast Fashion items should be reused and recycled.
The next question addressed some of the pros and cons of thrifting, wherein Kinjal provided a practical insight by showing thrifting's positive and negative sides. She gave the audience tips encouraging them to start thrifting. She cautioned the audience about scams on social media sites in the name of thrift stores.
The discussion then took a turn to address some of the policies of thrift shops regarding unused clothing. Punya addressed this question by elaborating on some of her return policies which may go back to the seller or get donated if the item is not sold. She talks about her pricing mechanisms based on the condition of the clothing item - whether it's not worn, old, new, et cetera. Kinjal specified having fair prices by grounding high prices to match the realistic expectations of the buyers and sellers. She focuses more on the sustainable aspect of thrifting rather than thrifting as a business model for second-hand clothing.
Kinjal shares the history of her store as she saw her friends thrifting for the first time and then continued to thrift more in the future. "Making people conscious of thrifting trends is one of my cherished memories." Punya specified that one could buy items from other second-hand stores; however, it is becoming more popular than social media influencers endorse. Thrifting should not be undertaken as a trend; one must make a conscious effort to become more sustainable through thrifting.
Following this discussion, both the speakers elaborated on some of the myths related to thrifting. Kinjal explains some of the major misconceptions between thrifting and reselling clothes and hand-picked items, often displayed in thrift stores online. "Customers should know which ones are the thrift stores, reselling stores, and other hand-picked curated items."
Both the speakers elaborated on some of the myths related to thrifting. Kinjal explains some of the major misconceptions between thrifting and reselling clothes and hand-picked items, often displayed on thrift stores online. "Customers should know which ones are the thrift stores, reselling stores, and other hand-picked curated items."
Punya says that many thrift stores are marketed as being affordable; hence it is looked down on. She says, "Only people of a certain financial level thrift. This is not true as thrifting is not about financial status; it is more about giving an item a longer life." Thrifting is affordable; however, there should not be misconceptions about prices and thrifting.
Post the discussion, a short quiz was held, moderated by the session's facilitators, and then a short Q and A session resulted in further discussion. Some important points were about the future of thrift stores and India and the inclusivity of sizes in these thrift stores. An interesting discussion also occurred regarding the ethical and sustainable practices of thrifting itself. Thrifting is more about giving life to an already worn piece of clothing rather than consciously only buying sustainable and ethically sourced fashion items.
The session was brought to a close by a vote of thanks delivered by Keerti Narayanan of 3PSEco.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Cancer Awareness and A Healthy Lifestyle

In collaboration with Sanjeevani - Life Beyond Cancer, the Department of Sociology and Social Work Student Association organised a webinar on Cancer Awareness and Healthy Lifestyle. The webinar began with a short video depicting the achievements of Sanjeevani - Life Beyond Cancer, an organisation that works in the field of comprehensive cancer care. Ms Annu, a member of the organisation, introduced the founder, vision, and goals. She then talked about their different initiatives and invited the main speaker, Ms Florina Singh.
Ms Florina Singh briefly talked about all the topics she planned on covering throughout the webinar. She defined cancer as the growth of abnormal cells and explained the factors that contribute to this growth and control these factors, such as low immunity and unhealthy lifestyles. She stated that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the country and is also affected by genetics. She then presented a video on how cancer cells and immunity cells work. She then spoke about food and nutrition, determined by timing, quantity, combination, and mindset. She highlighted that one must be thankful for the food, as our emotional attitude affects digestion. Next, she covered the importance of breathing and spoke about how we should take more prolonged and deeper breaths. Then she talked about mental health and how one must discuss issues about mental health more. Negative thoughts, anxiety and depression create an environment for cancer cells to develop and thus must be processed the right way. She highlighted some techniques to control negative emotions, such as reverse counting and journaling.
Next, she discussed cancer's early signs and symptoms that are ignored much too often. These include unusual bleeding, minor sores, painful lumps, gastric issues, sudden changes in moles, a nagging cough and more. She also demonstrated a self-check for breast cancer by checking for lumps.
She mentioned the different treatment options, such as chemotherapy and radiation. She then spoke about the various risk factors of cancer such as tobacco and marijuana use, obesity, stress, lack of sleep, low physical activity and an unhealthy diet. She also showed the audience a small video on the importance of good sleep. She spoke about the most common types of cancer, the first being lung cancer for men, followed by breast cancer for women.
In conclusion, Ms Florina emphasised the importance of psychosocial support to help cancer patients process their diagnosis and treatment options. One must be empathic and try to be as inclusive as possible. She shared anecdotes about how she and people she knows help patients by going for walks or cooking for them. She said that 80% of cancer might be treated by medication, but 20% of it depends on one’s willpower.
She ended with a quote by Stuart Scott, “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
The co-host then thanked all participants and announced a quiz for the audience. This was followed by a question-answer session as well as sharing of experiences. Dr Victor Paul thanked the guest speaker and commended her work. He also thanked the organising team and the association, following which the quiz winners were announced. Ramya Mohini Yerram, the General Secretary (UG), delivered the vote of thanks, which concluded the session.

Friday, 1 October 2021

Christites Against Substance Abuse (CASA) Roundtable - What We Can Learn from Gandhi: Combating Substance Abuse

Christites Against Substance Abuse (CASA) under the Department of Sociology and Social Work Student Association conducted the semester’s first student roundtable on the 1st of October. A panel of five students was set to participate in a discussion on the theme ‘What we can learn from Gandhi: Combating Substance Abuse’ on Gandhi Jayanti and National Anti-Drug Addiction Day. The welcome address was presented by Pooja A from 5PSEco. She warmed up the audience by conducting a short quiz, promising a gift for the first person to answer each question correctly. She then introduced the panellists - Isha Singhal from 1MSW HRDM, Nikita Choudhary from 1MSOC, Monica Mohanasundaram from 1MSW CCP, Divyajyoti Swain from 5PSEco, and Harshil Sangal from 5PSEco.

Isha initiated the discussion, talking about abuse and misuse, tolerance and dependence, and forming plans to prevent the same. She quoted Gandhi on his perspective on substance use and its effect on gender and domestic violence, morality and society. She ended by stating that we must either reduce or entirely eradicate the use of such substances, as it is not worth the fleeting moment of ecstasy, and related it to Gandhian Marxism and his notions of ahimsa.

Next, Nikita highlighted the increase in substance abuse, especially in adolescents, during the pandemic. This could be attributed to loneliness, sudden mental changes, and higher domestic violence rates. The announcements of lockdowns led to hoarding of alcohol.

Nikita talked about how Gandhi perceived alcohol to be a manifestation of the devil that destroyed both the individual and society and advocated for compulsory sobriety. She spoke about how political parties use alcohol to maintain political dominance in specific constituencies. She also talked about Gandhi’s principle of Sarvodaya and how it led to the upliftment of society.

Next, Monica highlighted the sexual abuse aspect of substance abuse, such as harassment and marital abuse. She also talked about how the patriarchy ingrained into our society forces women to stay silent about this abuse. She put forth a fundamental question, can a ban on alcohol consumption substantially reduce domestic violence? Such violence has several other dimensions, but alcohol prohibition can reduce its reduction. She talked about how Bihar and Mizoram have tried implementing such measures, but its success was debatable in practice due to a lack of mandates that regulate the black market and other such loopholes. She then questioned the state of today’s generation due to such prominent substance abuse in recent years. She ended by saying that we should keep in mind the dharmas of Gandhi, especially the principle of ahimsa.

Then, Divyajyoti took the discussion forward by talking about substance abuse as a growing problem and then looking at it from Gandhi’s perspective. He then highlighted research that prohibition does not reduce substance abuse. Personal freedoms in the modern world mean the forced ban is often counterintuitive, and thus we must inculcate Gandhi’s notions of responsibility and understanding into a balanced use of substances. He talked about the development of self-control as a skill. Further, he said that labelling alcohol as synonymous with the devil creates a stigmatised society, and one must thus approach the issue differently.

Finally, Harshil ended the discussion by summarising Gandhi’s thoughts on alcohol, smoking, and vices. He supported these thoughts that such substances cause severe issues to public health and society but also said that we must not go so far as to call it the drink of the devil. Instead, we must find a balanced and responsible point of use. He highlighted India’s long-standing history of cannabis use and thus said that responsible use is possible if we have constructive discussions about the same. He talked about Gandhi’s belief in naturopathy and rejection of medical drugs. He used this to talk about how some drugs are indispensable for medical use and thus disagreed with Gandhi on this point. He concluded that bans never work; however, the decriminalisation of substances combined with better mental health infrastructure can better solve the problem. We must look at it as a societal problem instead of a criminal one.

Following this, Pooja took over, throwing the floor open to the audience for any questions. One student asked Harshil about how we can induce a cultural shift when it comes to substance abuse, who replied by talking about the importance of being open-minded and communicative. She also welcomed closing remarks from the panellists, who spoke about how we must work towards reducing the negative effect of substance use and how there is a lot to be learned from Gandhi about the same.

She then invited Dr Reena Merian Cherian to address the audience, who talked about the practical applicability of self-control and appreciated the emphasis on women. This concluded the session, as the association extended their gratitude to the audience and the panellists.