Sekulu Nyekha is a volunteer at the International Youth Alliance on Family Planning Credit:

Kohima: Twenty-one-year-old Sekulu Nyekha from Dimapur is among the 40 winners selected for this year’s Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s initiative, ‘120 Under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders’.

According to the, Nyekha is currently working on an independent project to work on the issue of differently-abled and inclusivity/accommodation.

“Understanding the importance of family planning, the platform will address the issues of the same faced by the differently-abled [people]. I currently need the resources to collect data and document stories. We need more health advocates who are differently abled, contents and documentations that projects the realities of sexual health of the differently abled,” she said.

Launched on September 26, 2015, the ‘120 under 40’ project was planned for three rounds in 2016, 2017 and 2019, respectively, beginning with 40 winners with its last batch this year where each winner is awarded $1,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health either to continue their work in family planning or begin new projects.

A graduate in performing arts and visual communication with psychology from Jyoti Niwas College Autonomous, Bengaluru, Nyekha wishes to use the grant to launch her project. She is also a volunteer at the International Youth Alliance on Family Planning (IYAFP).

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“Sex is a tabooed topic in our community. We never received sex education, nor a mentor to guide us through puberty. This does not however mean young people are not having sex. Friends would get pregnant when they were as young as 15/16/18. Some would go through abortions where they were abused by doctors and nurses, one decided to keep the baby and stopped going to school. I have also seen poor families have children more than they can afford. Witnessing such incidents, I decided to be passionate,” Nyekha was quoted as saying by media reports.

She was also selected as plenary speaker and writer (youth delegate) in ICFP and uses story-telling platform to address FPRH issues.

Meanwhile, Suchi Bansal, a senior researcher at the University of Chicago and Rajesh Kumar Rai, a senior research scientist with the West Bengal health and family welfare department were also selected as this year’s winners.

‘120 Under 40’ is organised by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with sponsorship from Bayer.

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