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December 17 - 19
National Institute of Design
Lakshmi Murthy

Vikalpdesign and International Rural Network, Udaipur
Udaipur, India

Lakshmi Murthy is founder of the Vikalpdesign studio in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. Vikalpdesign's niche area is communication for rural low-literate and non-literate communities, specialising in work on adolescent sexual and reproductive health, child health, maternal health, and community health. She was awarded the Communication for Social Change – Meritorious Commendation award, by the University of Queensland, Australia, in 2009. Lakshmi Murthy has also been a recipient of the Bernard Conyer's Fellowship, the MacArthur Foundation FLD Fellowship, and the IRN Honorary Fellowship. She is a visiting faculty in design schools across India, and her work has been presented on local, national, and international platforms.


(Other Things...)
Media For Reproductive Health Communications

In India we have a vacuum of information on reproductive health - seen as a private and sensitive subject, sexual health has never lent itself easily to information exchange. It has always been hard to fill this vacuum, especially in tradition-bound societies, where communication on sexual health issues is an enormous challenge.
When I looked at cross sections of audiences, I found that the groups that had been consistently left out were rural communities. Rural adolescents were particularly marginalized.
These observations drew me into the area of designing reproductive health media for rural communities.

As a designer working with rural communities, I had already learned that design development happens best participatory.
After short-listing critical reproductive health areas, I designed methods to keep people central and involved at all times during the media development process. The strategy used was to organise media workshops with adolescents and elders in the community.
A range of products was designed, rigorously field tested, and put through many modifications. For the purpose of this presentation, products from two reproductive health areas will be highlighted: menstrual hygiene and maternal mortality.

A part of the reproductive health vacuum was successfully filled. The participatory design development effort resulted in a collection of products that were simple and easy to understand, replicable, affordable, locally available and scalable.
For menstrual hygiene the products developed were a sanitary pad, a cardboard demonstration doll, the menstrual wheel, and a fact book for adolescents.
Products that covered maternal mortality were, the contraception counseling box, the nutrition flag, take aways on pre- and post-natal care and training material on safe abortion.
The materials have been used by adolescents, community members, trainers of reproductive health and health workers in both NGO and government programmes.

Initially, adolescent health programmers, mother and child health initiatives were primary users of these products.
The National Rural Health Mission - NRHM, became the next group of users. The NRHM was launched by the Government of India with an objective to improving access to quality health care services for the rural poor. The NRHM Uttrakhand, found our products relevant and introduced many of these into regular health programme, through 800 health workers. The next three years saw more scale up.
The selection of products developed addresses only the tip of the iceberg. There is vast potential for applications both within government and non government health sectors.


Murthy, L., Kagal, A., & Chatterjee, A. (2000). Learning from the field - Experiences in Communication. Ahmedabad: NID.

Finley, H. (2002). Teaching girls about puberty, menstruation and how to make washable menstrual pads, in rural India.

Murthy, L. (2002). When contraceptives change monthly bleeding. How family planning providers and programs can help clients choose and use suitable methods. Knowledge for Health Project, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Communication Programs (CCP), Family Health International(FHI), Management Sciences for Health (MSH), with IT Support from Google.

International Rural Network

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