Purnima Mane // Ideals and Pragmatism in the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Field: Can They Coexist?

Purnima Mane FlyerFebruary 20, 2014 — At Pathfinder International, Purnima Mane and her staff face sensitivities around sexual and reproductive health, changing donor priorities, precarious funding and the difficult socio-cultural and political contexts in which the organization works. Through it all, she maintains that idealism and pragmatism need to—and do—co-exist.

Her talk gave examples of how Pathfinder navigates these tensions when the two notions collide and the challenges that remain. Pathfinder International is a non-profit working to ensure people everywhere have the rights and opportunities to live healthy sexual and reproductive lives. Prior to becoming Pathfinder’s president and CEO, Purnima Mane spent much of her career in the United Nations, with roles including Deputy Executive Director of the UN Population Fund and several leadership positions at UNAIDS and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.


Purnima Mane

President & CEO
Pathfinder International

As President and CEO of Pathfinder, Dr. Purnima Mane leads Pathfinder’s efforts in developing ground-breaking programs on sexual and reproductive health in 20 countries and leading global advocacy on sexual and reproductive health policies and rights.

Dr. Mane has had a long career in the United Nations prior to joining Pathfinder International. In her previous role as Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, she strengthened UNFPA’s work at the country and regional levels and spearheaded an evidence-informed, scientific approach, grounded in human rights towards the Fund’s programmes on sexual and reproductive health for women and young people. She was responsible at UNFPA for fostering global, regional and country level leadership on the visionary Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and accelerating its implementation during its final five years.

Prior to joining UNFPA, she served in senior international leadership positions at UNAIDS and at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. At UNAIDS she forged global consensus on policies on HIV prevention and universal access to treatment. She also led the development of UNAIDS’ first strategic plan, 1996–2001, through a world-wide consultative process. As the first Chief Fund Portfolio Director at the Global Fund, she laid the foundations for country ownership of Global Fund resources and accountability mechanisms. She has also held senior leadership positions, particularly around strategy development, at the Population Council where she was Vice President of International Programmes and at the World Health Organization.

As Associate Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in her home country of India, Dr Mane worked for over a decade on public health and gender-related issues and served as a key adviser to the Government of India in setting up its national AIDS programme.

Dr. Mane has devoted her career to promoting women’s health and empowerment, starting with her work in India. As a recognized global expert on gender, HIV and sexual and reproductive health issues, she has pioneered work in advancing the rights of women, young people, maternal health and family planning for the last three decades.

Multi-faceted, in her career Dr. Mane has been a diplomat, academic, author, social activist and a performing artist and has travelled extensively across the world. She has co-authored and edited a number of books including one of the first books on AIDS in India, AIDS Prevention: the socio-cultural context in India, and is a founding editor of the journal Culture, Health and Sexuality. She has also been active in music and theatre.

Dr. Mane holds a doctorate degree from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India, and was awarded a post-doctoral Fulbright Fellowship on women and AIDS to work at the School of Hygiene and Public Health of Johns Hopkins University, United States of America. She is fluent in English, French, Marathi and Hindi.