Position: Head of Love Matters India
Organization: RNW Media – Love Matters Programme
“Vithika uses digital media to bypass traditional gatekeepers and provide SRHR information to youth in India. Love Matters India has reached over 14 million people in 4 years and won multiple awards.“
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.
Love Matters is the first digital platform in India to provide open, honest and positive information on SRHR for young people. Talking about sexual pleasure is at the core of our engagement strategy. Rather than trying to scare and shame people to stop them having (risky) sex, we use pleasure as a hook to tackle cultural taboos such as abortion or sex outside marriage. Our digital approach comprises a responsive website, social media channels and a discussion board allowing young people to access SRHR information directly from their mobile phones. Our mobile focused technology bypasses traditional gatekeepers and provides a safe and anonymous place for youth to learn and engage. Love Matters India has reached over 14 million people and has the most popular SRH Facebook page in India.
What sparked your passion for family planning?
In India, talking about sex is still a taboo. Sex is a topic that brings feelings of shame and embarrassment, guilt and inadequacy for many people. I myself grew up with so many myths and misconceptions around sex. I still remember my biology teacher skipping the page on male and female reproductive systems, asking us to do self-study on that chapter. It was the accumulation of such observations and experiences that pushed me to pursue Love Matters.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?
Surprisingly, our biggest challenge hasn’t come from traditional gatekeepers but from non-traditional ones such as Google and Facebook. Our website has been blocked and Facebook account suspended because their content was deemed to be too explicit. This is a new problem especially in the world of SRHR where most organisations work offline. We’re in the process of tackling this challenge, lobbying with online gatekeepers to help them differentiate between SRHR and pornographic content.
What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?
There’s a discrepancy between the responsibility for family planning faced by men and women. Many men don’t see themselves as dangerous if they pressure their partner not to use condoms because they don’t know the consequences. This is why it’s important to discuss risks from a non-judgemental, pleasure positive angle. We’re privileged to have a primarily male audience, which gives us unprecedented ability to discuss FP from a gendered perspective and alter men’s attitudes and behaviour.
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?
We want to reach more young people in India by making our content available in more regional languages. Working together with grassroots organisations to lobby for changes in legislation, we aim to reinvent the way our nation addresses sexual health issues and to make information widely accessible. We would like to roll out Love Matters in South Asia, using other popular platforms including community radio and local grassroots partnerships to complement and expand the reach of what we do now.