It was the hashtag that launched a thousand stories and united countless voices into a social movement.
#LetMeBreathe was created by a group of journalists and social media experts to give residents in Delhi, India, a way to share their experiences and vlogs documenting high air polluting in their city.
The hashtag has since grown into a public engagement platform that has attracted funding from philanthropists.
“One October, when Delhi was enveloped by a particularly bad smog, we noticed that a lot of people were worried,” recalls leader of the Let Me Breathe (LMB) social media platform, Tamseel Hussain, “but no one knew what to do, and there was no central place where people could tell their story.”
“These stories were fragmented, so we created the hashtag and social media handles #LetMeBreathe. Since then, it has gathered momentum as is becoming a social movement. We realized when we covered pollution stories that everyone can be a mobile journalist. Now we focus on enabling people to tell stories on their own by training them on WhatsApp, with a platform to showcase them.”
Let Me Breathe now plans to hold workshops across India to train people in using smartphones to document air pollution. “It’s really about people doing amazing things to make this world a better place, and documenting it, to reach out to others,” said Hussain.
“We want to inspire people to use their mobile phones and tell pollution stories that may not be getting enough coverage on traditional media, but are crucial for people to make better informed decisions,” he said.
Stories about ordinary folk have since reached an estimated 7 million people since the platform launched on October 2017, engaging 20,000 people monthly on Facebook.
Some stories have been picked up by national broadcast network such as NDTV, and citizen initiatives such as YouthKiAwaaz.
The social movement has already had real social impact, giving representation and a voice to waste pickers, and showcasing Naman Chopra’s story– he quit Tesla to found his own enterprise to manufacture electric motorcycles.
Find out more at the Young Champions of the Earth website: #LetMeBreathe: A social response to pollution in India