Pasand: Empowering Adolscents to Grow with Confidence

Bangalore, IndiaBangalore, India
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Pasand is a social enterprise that educates adolescents on personal health and wellness. Using interactive health education, we help students understand puberty, body safety, personal hygiene, and gender norms. We leverage open dialogue and community building to reduce shame surrounding sexuality.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if all girls could achieve their dreams without fear of being marginalized, abused, or judged?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Without access to accurate information and open dialogue about puberty, millions grow up confused and ashamed – creating a culture of silence around sexuality, perpetuating inequality. In India, 90% of our students are not aware of menstruation until menarche, 23% of girls drop out of school at menarche, and 50% are victims of child sexual abuse. Victim-blaming and unreliable sources of information distort the messages adolescents receive.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Pasand has developed three programs that educate students about their bodies and rights: one for adolescent girls, one for adolescent boys, and one for young children. Pasand leveraged principles of human-centered design, focus groups, and surveys to create culturally-sensitive curricula. Our programs employ creative teaching techniques, such as student-led discussions, small group activities, role playing, games, and songs/dances, to engage students and enhance learning. In order to ensure that our students are well-supported, we conduct train-the-trainers programs, staff sensitization workshops, and parent/community programs. These methods of teaching have been highly effective since we introduced our curriculum one year ago.


1st Place Princeton Pitch 2011 $1,000; 1st Place Social Track TigerLaunch 2012 $5,000; Outstanding Innovation Dell Challenge 2013 $5,000; TOMS SSTM 2013 $5,000; Grand Prize Dell Empowering Women Challenge 2014 $15000
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

During our first girls program in Kannada one student was particularly engaged. She also had short hair and dressed in male attire. During our “ideal boy and girl” activity students list traits they admire, leading to a gender norms discussion. Previously respectful students turned cruel, noting girls should “dress like girls, marry boys, and have long hair.” This girl became a shell, hunching down in near tears. The facilitator came over and asked to address the issue. I knew that even if we got kicked out of school supporting this girl was worth it. After her speech on respecting others the class went from sheepish to a standing ovation. The change and realization of how their beliefs might hurt another continues will inspire me forever.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Pasand’s curriculum has reached over 3,500 individuals in Bangalore, Sangli, Bombay, Delhi and rural Nepal, either directly through our facilitators or indirectly through curriculum licensing. After Pasand’s program, female students’ knowledge of sanitary products increases threefold, and they report healthier habits of use and disposal. Our male students’ understanding of sexual abuse increases by 20% and they recognize that gender equality is beneficial to both men and women. One of our students reported, “I learnt that I can play sports during my periods – and I love sports.” Another learned “how to behave in our society…to respect people and their space…that both boys and girls should get education and both should work, before and after marriage.” Our students are more confident, have healthier habits, can identify and report abuse, and respect the opposite gender.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We plan to grow within India and beyond. Similar to the Teach for All model, we will replicate our model in North India and outside of India, with regional oversight to guide culturally-sensitive curriculum development. We will do this through a fellowship program that utilizes the young and energetic, characteristic of Pasand facilitators. The cultural sensitivity and relevance of our program is critical to our success. Therefore, for expansion into new geographies, we are developing a methodology to customize our curriculum to the specific needs of the community in a replicable manner.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Pasand’s revenue comes from three sources: (1) schools and organizations where we conduct programs pay on a sliding scale per participant; (2) schools and organizations can purchase a curriculum license to teach programs independently; (3) sanitary product sales. Revenue from for-profit activities will cover the cost of operations for all our paying customers. The trust covers costs for new program pilots and customers that are not able to pay.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Many organizations take a siloed approach to personal wellness education or only work with girls, such as Mythri and Menstrupedia. Pasand’s curriculum unites key issues and topics to more fully approach personal growth. Many organizations rely on one-way communication, such as videos or books, to spread information, while we deliberately use class discussion to increase students’ comfort talking about sensitive topics. Additionally, some organizations, such as ENFOLD, use lecture-based learning and focus core activities on advocacy, while we focus on scale and experiential education.

Founding Story

In 2010, I worked and lived at a girls’ home in U.P., India and learned of limitations girls face during menstruation, such as dietary restrictions or cramps so debilitating that they missed school. I continued to research the nuanced challenges women face during menstruation. In 2011, Pasand was formed in a social entrepreneurship class and slowly evolved into its present form. It wasn’t until January when we faced a herculean task of conducting a day-long program for 750 girls on two days’ notice that we looked at each other and said “we can do this.” Seeing the girls’ questions, confusion, and fear – at a private school where girls “should have” access to information –we knew we had to.


Our Bangalore-based team consists of 5 full-time staff and 4 part-time staff, as well as numerous volunteers. This includes Aunna Wilson, the Executive Director, as well as a program manager, two program executives, and an intern. Our educational background includes masters in social work and women’s studies, with undergraduate degrees in Economics, Sociology, Psychology, Social Work, and more, and our team has joined us from entities including Facebook, Enfold, Dream a Dream, and the Melton Foundation. We are fluent in six languages, and we have an ever-growing team of part-time facilitators. Deepali Bhardwaj will be joining us as Associate Director, coming from Pratham where she built their women’s entrepreneurship program from the ground-up and oversees a team of 90 individuals across the country. We also have a U.S. Board of Directors for our U.S. entity and an Indian Board of Trustees for our Indian entity. Both Boards have extraordinary experience in the field of adolescent health, healthcare, law, monitoring and evaluation, accounting, educational products, and the South Indian school network. We plan to expand our core team to approximately 12 members over the next two years. As we grow, our core team will be divided into three categories: business development, content development, and movement building (training, quality control, and awareness). In addition to the core team we will leverage highly-skilled part time facilitators, volunteers and launch a fellowship program to create a rotational system of energetic, passionate, and knowledge facilitators to help meet ever-growing demand.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Email from a friend

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Co-Founder and Executive Director

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Gender Equality.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

A social entrepreneur is someone who takes idea to action and impact. The past four years have been spent transforming my dream of Pasand into a reality. I have built a strong organization in a country I moved to alone, without knowing the language, and with a sensitive topic. My “foreign-ness” was transformed from a potential hindrance into an asset by demonstrating cultural sensitivity and hiring a team of all-local staff. Under my leadership, Pasand developed and executed many programs, most recently the human-centered design research and the pilot of our boys’ curriculum in a mere two months. Throughout this journey, I constantly evaluating how Pasand can learn its mistakes and build upon its successes. What started as my ‘passion for periods’ is now an organization working towards gender equality via health education.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We currently work with program, product, and outreach partners. Program partners include organizations and NGOs that work in school-settings or with groups of individual through which we conduct our programs. Examples include Mantra For Change (an organization that works in total school transformation), Teach For India fellows in both Bangalore and Mumbai, ACTS Group of Institutions, and the Rotary Clubs of Bombay and Bangalore. Product partners include EcoFemme, Sukhita, Sukhibhava, and SheCup. These are organizations in South India that sell locally-made products that are primarily eco-friendly and provide us free demonstration samples and special pricing in return for leveraging our unique supply channels for schools. We are happy to promote often-unknown organizations working towards better, more sustainable menstrual hygiene products. Finally, we work with organizations in an outreach capacity to refer our students and customers when there is a problem or need beyond our scope and capacity, such as gynecological care or counseling. Organizations include Parivarthan, the Bangalore Gynecology and Obstetrician Society, and individuals working on self-help groups or micro-loans within different communities. We have built a wide network of supporters by connecting our network to others, and vice versa. Leveraging a wide based of support for our activities has been critical to piloting new initiatives. For example, we are piloting a girls’ club program sponsored by THINX. Finally, the support of community officials is critical considering the sensitive nature of our work. On example of support we have garnered include the Vice Commissioner of Bangalore, BNS Reddy is an advocate and supporter of Pasand and has made the Indiranagar Club available for Pasand community events.