Championing Sustainability in the Asia Pacific Region
Green Action Week Grantees push forward the sustainability agenda through and beyond COVID
Green Action Week (GAW) is an annual global campaign running in the first week of October, to promote sustainable consumption. It is funded by the Green Action Fund (GAF), a grant scheme advancing sustainable development and reducing poverty. The fund is made available by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) and is administered by Consumers International.
This year, under the ‘Sharing Community’ theme, 27 Consumers International Members have been awarded the GAF grant to implement their projects, which are in line with the theme: ways that sharing and collaboration bring equal and sustainable access to goods and services, benefiting people and the planet. This year, GAW incorporates a new element, introducing five GAW Ambassadors to champion the projects in their region. They provide support to grantees and foster a vibrant community.
Rinki Sharma is the GAW Ambassador for the Asia Pacific region. She is the Projects Lead at Consumer Voice India. With a passion for people and social causes, below Rinki elaborates on why she is proud to be a GAW Ambassador, the challenges of Covid-19 and her hopes for the campaign this year.
The role of the Ambassador is a new feature of the Green Action Fund which provides high-level regional support and guidance to grantees. Why did you take on the role of the ambassador?
Hope keeps everyone moving!
GAW Ambassador for the Asia Pacific region! Wow! This is what I felt when I was offered the role and without thinking twice, I accepted. Consumer Voice has been involved in GAW since 2014. In my amazing journey with the community, I have learnt a lot. Be it through our seed distribution programme to farmers, organic farming solutions or soft toys exchange for children, it has been a fantastic experience learning from community members from across the globe. The experience has allowed us to exchange ideas and apply them in practical form to various campaign activities. It has been fantastic for me to be a part of GAW. Most important is that we all have contributed towards sustainable consumption to make the world a better place.
How has the COVID crisis affected Green Action Week grantees in the Asia Pacific region?
During the tough time of COVID, community members continued to keep their spirits high, conducting activities mostly online under the theme of ‘sharing community’. Through digital channels, such as Facebook and WhatsApp groups, community members not only shared their activities but also their experience of working under restrictions, and how people are responding to COVID challenges.
A teacher told me, “COVID taught us the importance of continuing to connect and share activities and community efforts. Students […] learnt the importance of being there for each other”.
It was a completely different experience during the unprecedented events of COVID, but the GAW community members showed courage and determination to carry out their planned activities successfully.
Why is Green Action Week important for the Asia Pacific region and how does it help address the issues your region faces?
In the Asia Pacific region, grantees are trying to address various challenges, such as how to tackle plastic pollution and reduce its burden in India. Consumer VOICE will be organising workshops uniting women, school children and youth in India to disseminate information on plastic usage and sustainable products. Moreover, Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) India will build on its former success in releasing inspiring video appeals to promote the sharing of goods between target groups to extend the lifetime of products. In Nepal, to create a common platform of exchange for former GAW participants, SEWA Nepal will connect local artisans, women and youth-led social enterprises to young entrepreneurs to give them access to the market.
Pakistan has been grappling with extreme inflation for months, with the country’s consumer price index rising to 13% in January this year, the highest in two years. As a result, poverty has been on the rise in the country, deteriorating standards of living and making basic goods unaffordable. In this challenging context, The Network in Pakistan will be entirely focussed on addressing the issue by illustrating the fact that in addition to managing supply and demand at the macro level, a consumer-centric price management system needs to be developed that includes all three tiers of government – federal, provincial and district. The Network's media campaign has already captured the attention of policy makers. The day after the campaign started, the Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal chaired a meeting of the Price Control and Monitoring Authority. He stated that price mechanism and supply maintenance have to go in parallel.
How exactly does the Green Action Fund support consumers to take action?
Consumers play a crucial role in all the activities undertaken by grantees, while tackling a variety of issues, and therefore their interests and rights have to be protected. With the help of GAF, organisations bring consumer concerns into the public eye to help decision-makers tackle them. For example, in India, the community, particularly young people, demanded that the government better safeguard the environment which resulted in the adoption of a ban on single use plastic in packaging by various e-commerce companies.
Additionally, the sharing community theme encourages important champions of sustainable consumption, such as women’s groups, youth groups, entrepreneurs and school children to take part. These groups contribute by sharing their skills and experience and lead action-oriented efforts. Over time I have seen that when these groups have been involved, they have overcome inhibitions to have their voices heard.
Based on your involvement in Green Action Week, what have you been inspired by?
I often think back to a village visit I made during one Green Action Week where the women initially refused to participate. However, when we explained why we were there, they came onboard and were keen to share the ways their families contribute to sustainable consumption.
They told me how much they value planting trees and the special meaning they place on certain plants due to their medicinal qualities. They also shared the traditional ways they turn kitchen waste into compost. We encouraged them to share experiences, exchange ideas and various methods in larger groups to inspire other members of the community, especially young women and girls. One of the women shared her story about her experience of harmful pesticides and the impact these have on soil. She witnessed first-hand how a fertile agricultural land turned into a barren land due to excessive use of pesticides. Consequently, she emphasised “we are all responsible for the environment and we must ensure that we preserve it for the future generations”.
In all our workshops, we design and execute activities to give equal opportunities to women to participate. We believe that women have a considerable influence within their families and can change the family’s habits. It is therefore very important to understand their perspective and involve them in whatever way we can.
What are your hopes for Green Action Week 2022?
I am very hopeful regarding GAW 2022, as COVID restrictions have been eased and life is going back to normal. In-person activities are back, which is helpful when it comes to effective communication and interaction. We have all experienced challenging times during the last two years; however, we have kept our spirits high and did not lose hope. Our enthusiastic and motivated GAW community members are ready to face any new challenges and to conduct this year’s activities successfully.
Best wishes to all of us! Let’s contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable and greener planet by informing and supporting consumers.
Support Green Action Week
Stay tuned throughout September as we publish stories from Green Action Week Members every Friday. And during Green Action Week itself, 4-10 October, we’ll be showcasing the innovative work of our Members each day.
Join us in celebrating. Use the hashtag #GreenActionWeek on social media and promote your sustainable consumption activities.