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Pallavi Khare: Unlearning Mental Health One Fact at a Time

Pallavi Khare: Unlearning Mental Health One Fact at a Time

Hi there Earthlings. My name is Spiffy and I’m an interplanetary journalist talking to the best and brightest leaders on this planet. Today I’m talking to Pallavi Khare, Co-Founder of WeUnlearn!

Spiffy: Hi Pallavi, I hear WeUnlearn has garnered quite a bit of buzz! What challenge are you addressing? 

Pallavi: India faces a high burden of adolescent mental health issues- 1 in 5 adolescents in India suffer from mental morbidity. Anxiety and fear for the future have increased significantly during COVID-19. Depression-related illnesses peak in adolescence, just as gender norms are being consolidated. Indian adolescents face high gender discrimination (40% of adolescents girls in India drop out of school) and have problematic gender attitudes (42% of adolescent boys agree to violence being a medium of control).

Spiffy: What motivated you to start WeUnlearn?

Pallavi: Even now people have a look of admiration when they hear I studied at IIT. But they don’t know my struggle during and after preparation of the IIT JEE exam. During preparation, for the first time in my life, I faced gender abuse and discrimination. I was never taught how to deal with abuse and I fell into depression. I cleared the exam but the trauma remained and manifested in my adult life. It took me a decade of unlearning to realize that it wasn’t my fault. Apart from all the technical knowledge, I wish I was taught how to deal with these issues starting in my childhood.

Spiffy: How are you working to make the world a more equitable place despite the size of the challenge?

Pallavi: WeUnlearn has developed a new technology solutionWulu – which provides a safe space for adolescents (14-17 years) to share their feelings anonymously, ask questions, reach out for help, and access resources. WeUnlearn also has a strong online presence (community of ~27,000) where we empower youth to navigate the everyday world of bias and lead a gender-equitable life by breaking down complex social phenomenon through research and facts into accessible bite-sized chunks

Spiffy: It seems like the world moves so fast! Bite-sized chunks are a great way to learn when we’re on the go. What is a milestone you’ve reached recently?

Pallavi: To achieve UN SDG 5 – Gender Equality, we need our youth to overcome misinformation, fake news, and become advocates for gender equality. Earlier this year we started converting complex research and academic papers into easily readable bite-sized content focusing on gender bias and discrimination. We have been able to create a large community of young people in a short time who appreciate evidence and research-based content. 

Spiffy: What’s a time you’ve overcome a roadblock? What did you learn from the experience?

Pallavi: I fell into depression during my preparation year for IIT JEE and my chances of clearing the exam were slim. My family realized something was wrong and they helped me recover. With just one month remaining, I focused my efforts on revision and doing the best I can. I learnt that it is the effort that matters and not the end result. I learnt that those who keep trying never lose.  

Spiffy: Depression can feel insurmountable at times, I’m glad you found a way through it. What’s something unexpected that you’ve learned from someone recently?

Pallavi: As a Co-Founder trying to build a social enterprise, I always think about what is the next milestone to reach so that I can say I have done justice to the organization. I realized recently that there is no end to the ‘conventional milestones’, which means that I will never feel I have done enough justice, which further means that perhaps the milestones need to change. I learnt from my team that it is important to be courageous and stick to one’s values and we have already achieved that milestone. 

Spiffy: You’re such a wise leader! Thank you for talking to me today.

Pallavi has more than 7 years of work experience at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Bain & Company. She is an IIT D alum and is pursuing a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School. She is also an artist and has held exhibitions of her charcoal artwork.