Neelam Punjani

Community Hero

Neelam Punjani

(CAN) Canada:  Nurse

Nominee Highlights:

Neelam Punjani, BScN, MScN, and PhD candidate is passionate about advancing the rights of young girls, by improving access to sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) information. She co-founded the CREATE training program, which has successfully trained over 200 SRHR trainers impacting around 10,000 girls, youth, women. Punjani was motivated to become a nurse and work with women after her own experience growing up in a patriarchal society where speaking about women’s rights is considered taboo. For Punjani, being a nurse and advocating for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights is the best job in the world. 

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Neelam Punjani is a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta. She has received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing and Masters of Science in Nursing at Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery from Karachi, Pakistan. Shortly after her undergraduate programme, she began working actively within the community advocating for young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Punjani’s current topic of research for her PhD is inspired by seeing young girls in her home country unable to express themselves. Her research aims to find out which mental health issues arise due to a lack of safe space and open communication regarding sexual and reproductive health in Pakistan. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge of our time…The pandemic underscores the vital contributions that I, as a nurse, make each day and the firm commitment to delivering patient care—even when it places my own health and safety at risk.” – Neelam Punjani

Punjani has received several awards from international organizations. She was selected as youth champion of Rise Up’s Youth Champions Initiative for SRHR, Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, and the Packard Foundation in 2014 and 2015 respectively. She was also a nominee for The Darroch Award for Excellence in Sexual and Reproductive Health Research in 2017 and was a 120 Under 40 finalist in the 2017 New Generation of Family Planning Leaders. She has received the Outstanding Youth Delegate Award at the Summer Youth Assembly at the United Nations, New York in 2017. Punjani has presented her work in more than 30 national and international conferences and 38 publications to date. She is actively involved in voluntary work and sits on many committees nationally and internationally.