#IndexAwards2016: Love Matters opens up conversations about sexual health
30 Mar 2016
BY GEORGIA HUSSEY

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Love Matters is an international multimedia platform that encourages young people to discuss love, sex and relationships. Launched first in India, Love Matters focuses on regions where discussions about sexual and reproductive health is censored or taboo, and their content is available in English, Hindi, Arabic, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Their aim is to offer young people a space to learn and ask questions they can’t ask elsewhere.

“There are a lot of myths and misconceptions based on religious or cultural perceptions that make it very difficult to speak openly about love, sex and relationships,” Stephanie Hasse, coordinator of Love Matters Africa, told Index.

The idea was first piloted in India in 2011. Love Matters India has now had more than 12 million visits and they have over 700,000 followers on their Facebook page.

“Talking about sex and anything related to sex continues to be a taboo in India,” said Vitikha Yadav, coordinator at Love Matters India. “People continue to live in shame and silence with respect to sexual health issues.”

Last year Love Matters India launched a campaign called BearNoMore targeting intimate partner violence among young unmarried couples. The campaign was run online, through their website and social media channels, and offline through film screenings in three villages of Rajasthan, each attended by over 1000 people.

“The response was amazing,” said Yadav. “We reached about two million people in two months.”

“That really encouraged discussions about intimate partner violence. It was a different kind of campaign, had huge engagement and was something that was not looked at by any organisation before, so it was hugely empowering for us as well.”

Love Matters Arabic covers the Middle East and north African region, with a specific focus on Egypt. To mark their first anniversary, the group held a stand-up comedy event in Cairo on love, sex and relationships. “We created a new space to talk about this sensitive subject in public,” Michele Ernsting, head of the Love Matters Global Project, explained to Index.

“Love Matters Arabic is actually the only dedicated platform in the Arabic language that discusses sexual health and sexual health of young people, in their own language. That’s why it’s unique,” Abir Serras, coordinator of Love Matters Arabic told Index.

Love Matters Africa launched the Love Matters Music Awards: the first music awards in Kenya dedicated to providing young people the chance to produce songs on themes related to pleasure and sexuality.

“In the region that Love Matters Africa works in, topics around love, sex and relationships aren’t easily discussable,” said Hasse.

“Young people often don’t have the information they need when it comes to making choices about their sex lives. That has to do with the fact that sexual health education is missing at schools, or it’s focused on abstinence only,” she said.

“Last year in May we ran a special campaign for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, trying to make the topic more discussable.”

Across all their platforms, Love Matters now has over 100 million page views. “We now have persuasive data to show how to improve the effectiveness of sexual health education by directly addressing the uncensored needs of young people,” said Ernsting.

“It has been wonderful to see Love Matters to scale up to all these countries and in really challenging settings where the need of this work is immense,” Vitikha Yadav said of the impact that Love Matters has had on young people. “We are hoping to reach out to many more millions in the country and many more across the world.”

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