At 18, when teenagers enter adulthood, they have plenty of career-related aspirations in mind. Somebody wants to become an engineer or a doctor or an entrepreneur. But, how many think of transforming the society? When Pravin Nikam turned 18, he did something unusual. He decided to work for society.
In 2011, four years ago, he opened “Roshni”, a Pune-based organization focused on providing education to children in slums and improving the health conditions of women. Today, he is 22 and his accomplishments are astounding. To name a few, in 2014, he was appointed “global shaper” by the World Economic Forum. Later in the same year, he was anointed by the UN as a global youth ambassador for their ‘A World At School’ programme. He is also an associate fellow with the Royal Commonwealth Society, London. And the list of his accomplishments continues.
His organisation has helped children living in slums develop their oratory and reading skills, computer knowledge, linguistic, mathematical, physical as well as internal and environmental intelligence, drawing, music, dance and craft.
Under Roshni, Pravin has been running various social campaigns such as the period project, right to pee campaign, the kitab (book) express, the readers and writers project and the pink project. “We work to develop awareness & capability in those members of the society who have been deprived of their rights because of the inequality and exploitation,” says Pravin.
Social campaigns and projects
The period project is a campaign to eliminate the taboo attached with menstruation. It aims to spread awareness among young girls and women regarding their menstrual health and hygiene as well as staying informed about their body and managing their periods effectively.
The right to pee campaign, another initiative of Roshni’s, is for “free clean safe public toilets for women.” According to a recent District Information System for Education (DISE) survey, as many as 1,226 government schools still do not have toilet facilities for girl students. In Pune district, there are 35 government schools that lack toilets for girls and 55 schools have toilets that are not in a usable condition.
The World Health Organization mandates one toilet for 100, whereas, Pune has one for 9,100. This has prompted a youth group to launch a clean-up drive in the city. This campaign encourages people to click pictures of filthy toilets in their institutions and post them on it’s Facebook page. Roshni’s volunteers then step in and try to persuade the administration of the concerned institutions to clean it up. And if the concerned authority fails to act, the volunteers would pick up the broom themselves.
Under the Readers and Writers Project, visually impaired students are provided with readers and writers for exams. “The project is an attempt to connect the volunteers to those who need them. Our vision is to enable the visually impaired to be self reliant and lead a quality life in the society with dignity,” says Pravin.
The purpose of Kitab Express, another campaign by Roshni, is to encourage and promote reading and make children curious and think inquisitively and bring in behavioral change in them.
“As a part of one of the key activity, we are hoping to provide books and curriculum based books to the school children, in the schools that we have chosen,” says Pravin.
The Pink Project is an online initiative of Roshni to raise awareness and increase attention towards breast cancer.
Birth of Roshni
In 2011, Pravin went to Assam on an educational tour. During the tour, he met a teenage girl who had recently stopped going to school. The reason was that she had started menstruating. Considering it a curse, the father had her drop out of the school. It was a shocking moment for Pravin. Besides, there was a lack of health and hygiene awareness in the family related to menstruation. Four women in that family used the same cloth during their menses. There, he decided to work on the issue by creating awareness via education.
On his return, he dropped out of engineering and took admission in Humanities. “My parents always wanted me to study Humanities, but it was I who opted for better career prospects. Finally, I chose to engage in social work full time.” In 2011 ‘Roshni’ was born, named after the the same girl he had met in Assam.
“Roshni is not a registered organization yet. We don’t accept any funds as is run with the monetary support and effort of volunteers involved with us. It started with a team of six people. Today, there are over 250 volunteers working with it. However, we are looking forward to registration of the organization due in August,” says Pravin.
The achievement of the organization is remarkable. From children’s education to women’s issues to providing help to visually impaired people to the environment, Roshni works for everyone.
Pravin has further plans, especially for slum dwellers. There’s no pause in his selfless effort for the society. Talking about his work, he says, “There are numerous problems and issues in our society. It’s the collective responsibility of the society to look after the issues and work for the betterment of the society. We work in the same direction.”