Vithika Yadav uses design thinking to bust taboos about sex in India

laurel dault
Article by: Laurel Dault
Vithika Yadav uses design thinking to bust taboos about sex in India

Vithika Yadav is a human rights professional with over a decade of experience working on human trafficking, modern day slavery, sexual rights and gender rights.


Internationally recognized as an expert on survivor care and protection services, Vithika was awarded as one of the Top 99 under 33 Young Foreign Policy Leaders in the world by Diplomatic Courier and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy in the USA in 2012, and in 2016, she was recognized for being one of the top 120 under 40 next generation of Family Planning Leaders in the worldOver the years, she has worked for premier organizations such as UN Office on Drugs and Crime, BBC World Service Trust, Free the Slaves, and MTV EXIT. Vithika advises NGOs and INGOs about how to create rights-based programs of recovery through which women and girls can emerge from being victims to being human rights advocates.


Vithika’s latest project Love Matters is the first ever website in India to give complete, honest, and unbiased information on love, sex, and relationships in both Hindi and English. Operating under Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the website provides relatable culture-specific content that helps young people to make informed choices in order to have safer, healthier, and happier sex and relationships. In 2013, Love Matters won the prestigious ‘Award for Excellence & Innovation in Sexuality Education’ from the World Association for Sexual Health, and most recently, their intimate partner violence awareness campaign #BearNoMore won a Social Media For Empowerment Award.


Vithika took the time to share her work and how participating in Class 5 of the THNK Executive Leadership Program helped along her journey.

What brought you to THNK?

It was my colleague Michele Ernsting from Class 4 who actually is the reason behind me joining THNK. I could sense the energy and enthusiasm in her when she had joined the THNK Executive Leadership Program. She did not share all of the information covered during the program modules with me because she said she wanted me to experience it first hand. I was clearly fascinated with design thinking, whatever little I knew of it. But I was very keen to learn what design thinking tools could bring to my area of work on some really critical issues.

What is Love Matters?

Love Matters is a multimedia platform that provides gender friendly Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) information to young people and engages them to talk about love, sex and relationships in an open, honest and non-judgemental way. The vision of Project Love Matters is to be the leading source of information in a world where love, sex and relationships are a right, a choice and a pleasure. Love Matters is a global project with operations In India, China, Latin America, Kenya and Egypt.

In India, Love Matters is the first and the most popular bilingual website (Hindi and English), with a reach of close to 2 million per month. In India, we have a community of more than 1 million Facebook followers, making us the most popular sexual and reproductive health and rights page in India on Facebook.

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. It is for this reason I feel so passionate about the work we do at Love Matters. To be able to provide young people with non-judgemental, pleasure positive, open and honest information that helps them make informed choices. The youth today is the future of tomorrow and investing in their sexual health is critical around the globe.

Vithika Yadav applied design thinking skills along with her team at Love Matters India to create the award-winning #BearNoMore campaign, raising awareness about intimate partner violence.

How has THNK changed the way you work?

Using human centered design for social innovation has helped me think of innovative and impact driven pathways for addressing a complex issue and designing a new project or campaign. It’s an intense process… it’s pretty crazy too, but it helps you explore a user journey in a way that looks at problem solving in a holistic way.

I have found sensing and prototyping extremely valuable tools that I have tried using at Love Matters. Engaging with users through user journeys that really help us step into their shoes. Working on iterations, getting feedback and making further changes, refining ideas for projects or campaigns has resulted in some really good and solid work. I used this process to design our campaign on intimate partner violence.

Most recently, with other THNK Alumni Karim Maarek, Ektaa Aggarwal, and Michelle Chakkalackal, we used design thinking with my team at Love Matters India to design a campaign on Intimate Partner Violence with a special focus on care versus control. It’s really cool! I can’t wait to see the reactions to the campaign. The results of the design thinking workshop also helped inform the first ever 360/VR film on intimate partner violence that will be launched next month in India.

Vithika Yadav and her team at Love Matters India recently won a Social Media for Empowerment Award

Vithika Yadav and her team at Love Matters India recently won a Social Media for Empowerment Award for their work busting taboos about sexual health in India.

What's next for you?

Next is a really busy calendar with many interesting projects and campaigns lined up. We are in a challenging situation with resources and sustainability considering we are a non-profit initiative so we’ll be looking at some interesting business case models for Love Matters, partnerships that amplify our reach and scaling up operations in India. And for all of this I of course need all the help that I can get from my amazing THNK community. Once a THNKer… always a THNKer!

To discover how the Executive Leadership Program can help you apply design thinking to innovate your own project and receive international recognition, visit the program page.