“CHANGEMAKERS FOR THEIR GENERATION” – VIGNESH SHANBHAG, A 23-YEAR-OLD OUTSTANDING YOUNG HERO
Established in the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Award is given out by the charity to young leaders around the world for their social action and humanitarian efforts and it has the support of both her sons, The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex.
Several young leaders from across the world have won the coveted Diana Award for advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Established in memory of Diana, the Princess of Wales, the Award is considered the highest accolade a young person can achieve for social action or humanitarian efforts. The award recipients have been put forward by adults who know the young people in a professional capacity and recognize their efforts as a positive contribution to society. Through a rigorous nomination process, these nominators had to demonstrate the nominee’s impact in five key areas: Vision, Social Impact, Inspiring Others, Youth Leadership, and Service Journey.
One such leader is Vignesh Shanbhag, aged 23, from Mumbai, India who has been recognized with this very respected accolade. He has received this award for going above and beyond his daily life to create and sustain positive change for women in society through his initiative named ‘Project Red’ which is a part of this organization ‘The Musafir Project’.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a virtual award ceremony was held on June 28, 2021, where Vignesh received his award and his name entered the official Roll of Honour.
With menstruation remaining taboo in India, Vignesh had the goal to ensure that no women go without basic sanitary care, especially during a global pandemic. Vignesh believes that menstruation and women’s health isn’t spoken about enough, and yet women everywhere must still deal with the consequences. As part of the effort to eradicate period poverty in Mumbai, Vignesh and his team distributed over 60,000 sanitary pads in the poorer settlements in the city. In the future, he plans to organize workshops and discussions, and create a platform for women to openly discuss their health and experiences.
Speaking about his achievement, Vignesh said that it was not until he started researching and conducting field visits, he realized how big a problem period poverty is in our country. Vignesh has now helped more than 8000 women living in the underprivileged areas of Mumbai and its neighboring small towns. He has been applauded for his relentless spirit and goal to make sure that no women of this country go without basic sanitary care.
Apart from his studies and as a part of his organization ‘The Musafir Project’, he has actively been involved in a lot of other social work over the past few years. He is somebody who feels very strongly about social causes such as World Hunger, Climate Change, Mental Health Awareness, LGBTQIA Rights, Women’s Rights, Animal Welfare and Environmental Cleanliness – and hence he decided for himself to try and do one big thing for each of these causes as his personal contribution to society. He has already ticked several of them off his list and looks forward to bringing about further change in the near future. Vignesh says, “Being actively involved in social work makes me feel alive and gives me a sense of purpose in life. It has made me humble and more empathetic.”
Vignesh is a high achiever who has won several other awards such as the 40 Under 40 Indian Achievers Award (Indian Achievers Club) and Pride Of Young Hindustan Award (Youngistan Foundation). He has been featured in other magazines/news articles such as the Global Social Leaders News, Being Ambitious Magazine, DailyHunt News, and Disrupt Magazine. He has also been a fantastic student and has been recognized for his leadership and academic excellence. Vignesh mentions, “As the youth of the country, we have the power to bring about positive change in the country. We should not completely depend on the government or the municipal corporation to bring about change in societies when we as citizens can find solutions ourselves and do something about it!” He quoted Nelson Mandela, “Whether you change the linen or stitch up wounds, cook the food or dispense the medicines — it is in your hands to help build a public service worthy of all those who gave their lives for the dream of democracy.” He also adds, “This is our country and our motherland. Irrespective of who you are and what you do, respect should be equally given to everybody. There is no need to differentiate, everyone deserves equal respect.”
Given the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, his organization is currently collaborating with other organizations to raise funds for the Afghan Refugees to provide them with ration kits and basic hygiene essentials. More details about his fundraiser can be found on his organization's Instagram page.
Finally, he says “If you have an opportunity to step out and help the society, please remember to take it since there is a huge need of help. When you have all need in life, build a longer table, not a larger fence.”
Tessy Ojo, CEO of the Diana Award, during the Virtual Award ceremony held on June 28, congratulated the Diana Award recipients from the UK and around the globe who are ‘Changemakers For Their Generation’. She said that by receiving the honor they would inspire more young people to get involved in their communities and begin their own journey as active citizens. For over twenty years The Diana Award has valued and invested in young people encouraging them to continue to make positive change in their communities and lives of others,” said Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award.
There are 12 Diana Award Judging Panels representing each UK region or nation and a further three panels representing countries outside of the UK. Each panel consists of three judges; one young person, an education or youth work professional, and a business or government representative. The panels have an important main purpose: to determine which nominations from each UK region/nation/country will receive The Diana Award. Nominations are judged using the Criteria Guide and Scoring Guide which have been created to measure the quality of youth social action.
Instagram Id: the.musafirproject