grantees » Manju Menon

Manju  Menon, India

Manju has worked on Indian environmental and conservation law and policies, specifically relating to the siting and environmental decision making processes for infrastructure projects. For over a decade she’s been an active member of Kalpavirksh Environmental Action Group, an NGO focusing on ecologically sustainable and socially equitable development. An ardent researcher and reporter, Manju is now a PhD candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University and is based in Yale University to write her thesis.

With the help of the JWH initiative, Manju developed a process of comparative learning by conducting extensive field research in Colombia, discussing with relevant environmental and political actors, as well as presenting her own experiences to diverse audience. She says that “the main purpose of undertaking these activities was to gain an understanding of how the articulation of environmental movements opens and/or circumscribes the expression of social, livelihood and cultural concerns of marginal communities in Latin America. This would help to strengthen and deepen my own understanding of similar issues in Northeast India, where I have undertaken field work for several years.” Traveling across Colombia, she met with several indigenous groups, academics, journalists and activists. Through this process she observed how environmental issues within a region are linked to processes of globalization and economic growth of the country and across international boundaries.

Her mentor for the program, Dr Kiran Asher, brought to her learning, the benefit of long standing experience with this region, and association with many individuals and communities living here and their struggles. She was also encouraged to push the boundaries of what has already been written and told about Colombia and Afro-Colombian communities. As a result, she had detailed discussions on aspects of local governance and new spaces of participatory development such as the consulta privea. These themes are only emerging in the discourse on Colombia now that ethnic communities are engaging with the Government in new ways.

She says; “I see this collaborative travel and research experience as the beginning of our efforts towards developing a network of academics, activists and community members interested in a south-south dialogue. This trip is only the beginning of what I propose to develop into a long term process of comparative experiential learning for those interested in making political and social interventions in the areas of human rights justice, environmental protection and identity politics.