‘Women and tech’ to improve delivery of healthcare

Ong 2.0 dedicates this month to “Women and tech”.
So, if you’re active on Twitter, you’ve probably came across the hashtag #mWomen.
mWomen is a new tagline referring to mobile tools and programs centred on the needs of women, usually those living in developing countries.

Typical mWomen projects involve:
– Promoting literacy and educational opportunities for girls and women through targeted SMS messages;
– Improving access to health services and providing useful tips and advice to pregnant women, new mothers, families affected by HIV/AIDS or other communicable and non-communicable diseases alike through mobile channels;
– Targeting female entrepreneurs, small business owners, and agricultural workers with relevant market information, up-to-date prices, weather reports, tips and advice for expanding their business or improving productivity.

We’d like to introduce a useful Android-based mobile application created for women, that gives advice on a variety of health, social and legal issues.
Through this app any woman can ask any question without revealing her name. The app maintains total anonymity for its users, who only need an email address to register. Expert advice is usually provided within 24 to 48 hours by a team of doctors, lawyers and counsellors. They respond in the language indicated by the user’s questions. A startup called maya.com.bd has launched this mobile app for women in Bangladesh. The developers of the app, Achia Khaleda Nila and Shubrami Moutushy Mou, both women, argue that the app can be instrumental in empowering women in the country. The app was funded by the development organisation BRAC.
The status of women’s health in Bangladesh is not satisfactory. Each year 600,000 women die from complications related to pregnancy. 66% of adolescent girls get married before the age of 18 and 64.3% become pregnant before that age. These young girls cannot talk about their health problems to one another because of the social stigma attached to it. As a result, various types of health, social and legal problems go unsolved. These women are the app’s main target.

Schermata 2016-03-16 alle 12.07.17
Shahana Siddiqui, Head of Content and Communications at Maya, told the New York Times:

“In Bangladesh, women’s health and bodies are always discussed within the context of pregnancy, and prior to that it is as though their health is not an issue, she says. Maya provides a platform where women can freely speak about their emotional, medical, legal, and social needs anonymously, without being judged.”
Maya Apa app can be downloaded from Google Play Store free of charge. Samsung Mobile Bangladesh also announced that this app is now available for all Samsung Smartphones sold in Bangladesh as part of their corporate outreach.
Ivy H Russell, Maya’s founder, wants to continue building the app and she told local media:
“We are motivated to continue innovating with the Maya Apa app. Our mission is to connect women to the knowledge they are looking for through technology.”

Maya’s team also won a prize at the Bangladesh Brand Forum’s Inspiring Women Award 2015 in the Best Start Up category.

Just to give a few recommendations to those who are interested in deploying a mobile phone project to disseminate health promotion messages among women within a community, keep in mind the followings:

  • Allow rural women to reach you on their own time by including pull content, or incoming call capabilities. If you allow a woman to call in to access the content, she can call when she feels it is convenient. To ensure the content is free, women should also be able to flash in and be called back with the content, as incoming calls are free.
  • Make it easier for people to pass on the phone to the target audience, who may not be the primary holder of the phone. For SMS, you may consider including the user’s name in the content, so the phone owner knows to pass the phone onto the target end user.
  • Send calls at a standard and convenient time. You should work with participants to find out the exact timing that is ideal for rural women to have phone access as they could be busy with their daily activities at the household or in the farm.
  • Consider providing physical community phones. These physical installations allow for anyone in the community to access a program’s services. If your budget is higher you could also provide phones to all of the end users to ensure they have access. However, this choice has to be carefully evaluated and it’s only viable when the phone is a core part of the initiative.
  • If you know your target end users, group them appropriately by sharing status. Ask your target end users whether they are phone owners or not, and then you can group your subscribers by sharing status.
  • Use a technology solution that fits the context of poor network, low credit, often uncharged batteries and so on.


The original post is from Rising Voices, a Global Voices project that helps spread citizen media to places that don’t normally have access to it. https://globalvoices.org/2015/04/05/in-bangladesh-a-mobile-app-provides-a-platform-where-women-can-feel-free-to-talk/


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