With wide recognition of your work, there comes great responsibility,” says 23-year-old Pune resident Pravin Nikam, who is selected for the State Youth Award by the Government of Maharashtra.
Nikam’s extensive work for spreading menstrual hygiene awareness has given him recognition not just locally, but also globally.
Nikam’s journey began in 2011, when he met a girl named Roshni in Assam. Roshni was not allowed to attend school during her periods.
Failing to understand this mind set, Nikam took it upon himself to break the conventional thinking. At 18, unlike many others of his age, Nikam fought against the villagers for Roshni’s rights.
This was a turning point in Nikam’s life as he decided to educate children and improve awareness regarding women’s health.
The following year, in 2012, Nikam set-up an NGO called Roshni.
“Menstrual hygiene is important for well-being and individual development of women. It is needed in today’s time. I am running this campaign since the last five years, along with my friends. Today, as I receive appreciation for my work from the government, I want to give credit to my team. This is an honour for our social work,” said Nikam.
To ensure that his efforts to spread awareness and educate people about periods reap benefits, Nikam decided to train himself in gender equality. He received training from Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute, which covers menstrual hygiene subject.
Later, he started working on projects to generate discussions about menstruation and dispel myths related to them.
Nikam has trained nearly 50,000 women on menstrual hygiene and most of them are from slums of Pune city. He also came up with a disposal mechanism for sanitary napkins. He also trained women in making paper bags in order to make them financially independent.
Since 2012 till date, Nikam has executed several projects, such as Right to Pee campaign which highlighted the need for clean and safe public toilets. Over 60 organisations across India are now engaged in the Right to Pee campaign.
As time passed by, Nikam began involving many youngsters in his projects to further improve its reach. He brought them together to clean toilet blocks.
“Youngsters should take part in social issues and solve them with fresh set of ideas and skills. As they are the future of our country, they have to take a lead to make our society a better place.”
In 2013, Nikam was nominated as Global Youth Ambassador by the United Nations (UN) and has represented Asia at the Commonwealth Youth Council in 2015.
In 2016, Nikam was among 25 people in the country to receive the National Youth Award. He was also named as Global Shaper by World Economic Forum initiative and is a representative from Asia on the Commonwealth Youth Council.
“With the support of my team, I will take this cause further. Our work has just begun,” says Nikam.