Melissa Fernandes meets a group of enthusiastic young girls who are determined to change the world and make it an eco-friendly place to live in.
Egals is a club that has been founded by Avantika Avalokitaa, a class 5 student of the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Mumbai. The club works on a basic principle—to clean the environment and spread awareness about the importance of a clean, green world.
Avantika is a passionate and self-motivated girl, whose heart wrenched each time she saw her surroundings fall victim to careless human activity and population growth. On a trip to Assam, Avantika noticed that there were countless mango trees whose fruits were left to rot as they were not consumed. And the fact that no one raised concern over this was thought provoking. On returning home, she thought of putting together a club that would protect the environment and that’s how Egals was born.
"The club was initially incepted to spread awareness. It's a fun club as we shoot our own movies and show them to each other," says Avantika. To publicise her club, Avantika also designed a logo. She says, "We decided on the name Egals and I designed the logo such that we get more attention and thus have more members. The name Egals is an abbreviation for ‘Eco Girls’, which means we are eco-friendly and strive towards it. But it also stands for eagles, because this species of birds is known for their watchful eye." Avantika has also written an introductory poem for the club to encourage people to join in and the motto of Egals members is to 'keep an eye to keep clean'.
Avantika is not alone in this project. She works with six of her friends who are equally zealous about protecting the environment. One of the members, Michelle Matthew, a class 5 student at St Annes School says, "We are an all-girls group and prefer only girls in the group as we believe that girls have the power to make a difference and can achieve what they want. Girls are usually taken for granted and many people don’t believe in their capabilities. We believe otherwise."
Each person in the club is allotted duties and gets equal importance. While Mallika Viniet, Avantika’s older sister, oversees the entire club, others are designated specific jobs. The youngest member of the club, Disha Singh is the Ruling Girl who maintains discipline in work-related matters. Juhi Zachariah, a class 2 student of Conventof Jesus and Mary, is known as the Newspasser and also takes care of security. She helps convey important meeting details to other members if they are absent and also keeps a watch on club property. Gracy Singh, the Treasurer, takes care of important collections like stones, shells, twigs and other junk material that can be reused. Materials are stored at the club’s office. Michelle is the Vice Captain and substitutes Avantika, the Captain, in all her duties. Anushka Bhatti, a class 3 student, is the Environment Captain and makes a note of changes in the surroundings of the club premises. Says Anusha, "I observe the surroundings and if I see anyone littering or burning excessive crackers, I immediately ask them to stop."
The club functions just like any other, with regular meetings and action plans charted out. Egals also enacts plays that convey significant messages in relation to the environment. Egals members make use of puppets to explain their concepts in these plays. Avantika also shoots films on various topics like global warming, the development of our country and its effects, the growth of plants, birds, pollution and scarcity of water. Egals organises eco-camps wherein all these films are shown to every member of the club and everyone is allowed to give suggestions on how to improve the film. The girls now plan to post these films on Facebook and You- Tube so that everyone can have access to their work.
The Egals members spread awareness wherever they go. Mallika says, "We ask our school bus driver to switch the engine off when we are at a petrol pump in order to save fuel. We have also set an example in our society by cleaning the building premises and now ensure that no one litters the area and everyone uses dustbins instead."
Avantika adds, "As the club progresses, we plan on creating a cartoon called Mainmes, which will be educational and entertaining. We hope to make the cartoon available in all languages such that everyone understands the importance of certain issues and reacts."
What’s more, Avantika has higher aspirations and intends to talk to the environment minister and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) about threats to the environment. She has a lot of suggestions and questions and is anxious to get some answers. She wants to tell the BMC to separate dry and wet garbage as they can be used individually. She also believes that the use of recycled and cloth bags should be made compulsory and that the smoking ban in public places should be made more effective as she notices too many cigarette butts on the road.
Avantika says, "I will continue with this club as it has already made a difference in my area and I will help it grow gradually. Anyone can join my club if they pledge to protect the environment by saving trees, animals, water and energy."
A Poem by E-gal Avantika Avalokitaa, Class 5, Convent of Jesus and Mary, Fort , Mumbai
I am the captain of my team, I have to plan up all the schemes.
The team theme is eco, But soon I’ll add in a disco.
The rankings are from one to six, All have girls ruling to fix.
You can also join if wanted, Maybe in the sub-club, which is haunted.
Cause there's no other place in the club, For the other options are: mug, bucket or bathtub.