I, Laraib Abid, WOMEN DELIVER’S Young Leader under the umbrella of Oxfam Novib’s project, My Rights My Voice, conducted certain interventions in Chanan Development Association. These interventions gave me an insight into the prevailing context of Pakistan, where having discourse on topics like Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH), Family Planning, Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS is considered immoral. Moreover, the myths and false beliefs attached with these topics multiply the adversities.

Reflecting on this, I concluded that advocacy on SRHR is urgently needed as well as concrete steps in order to contribute my responsible share in the eradication of such orthodox fallacies.

With passion, and a firm belief in the strength of my ideas, I applied for a Small Grant Project offered by WOMEN DELIVER. The grant was for developing an innovative intervention to address SRH concerns, with a focus on FP and HIV/AIDS. Fortunately, I succeeded in winning this auspicious opportunity.

My idea was to develop an Android-based smart phone application to link existing free SRH Services with eligible consumers (young couples). Now a question emerges, why a mobile phone application?

The answer lies in the statistics which show the prevailing situation in Pakistan:

68% of the smartphone users in Pakistan are on Android while 77 % of smartphone users are just 21 to 30 years old1.

Keeping these stats in mind, I planned to involve smart phone technology with the aim of addressing SRH concerns. I set six milestones to achieve this target:

  1. A Consultative Meeting was conducted to seek expert advice and explore on-the-ground realities. Personnel from public and private organizations were gathered to share insights and develop strategies addressing the felt and expressed needs. This meeting helped me a lot in designing a SMART structure for my project.
  2. The building of a mobile application initiated with the development of a team of field experts. The application was intended to spread authentic literature regarding all types of contraceptive methods for both men & women and information about HIV/AIDS. Geotags were to be used (via Google Maps) to identify free SRH services available city-wide (Lahore, Pakistan). Furthermore, Helplines’ accession of Counsellors responsible for resolving SRH concerns, were also be made available via this application. All the data and information required to build these components into the application was generously shared and supported by public/private officials.
  3. The third milestone was an Interactive Session with Youth. To do this, high-ranking officials from public and private facilities were engaged and delivered lectures to disseminate factual information while dissolving the myths around SRHR, Family Planning HIV/AIDS and STIs/ STDs. The feedback received was satisfying and any queries that emerged from the young people in attendance, were resolved by the experts.
  4. The fourth milestone was the organization of a Free Medical Camp on the outskirts of the city. With the assistance of doctors and counsellors, patients were provided with required treatment, FP kits, counselling, free tests and medicines. With very little effort, this camp served many people. It proved to be an unforgettable experience for me and gave me a great sense of achievement.
  5. With the agenda of reaching the masses, IEC (Information, Education and Communication) material in the form of brochures and infographics were developed and disseminated. The feedback I received after the dissemination was beyond my imagination. My effort was appreciated by the general public and regarded highly by the public and private organzitions providing SRH services.

With the accomplishment of the above milestones, the official launch took place. A theatre performance depicting the current scenario in Pakistan and need of such a mobile application was performed to contextualise the idea, and the project was named as Bridge the GAP (Giving Access to Planning). My idea of developing a mobile application to address SRH concerns received an overwhelming response by the audience. Some attendees claimed it was an upcoming revolution in the history of Pakistan due to the technologically competent approach and the importance of the topic, which has so far been unaddressed in Pakistan’s context. Above all, young people’s involvement in addressing these topics was considered important and was immensely appreciated.

The biggest challenge I faced during the implementation of the project was the topic, which is considered culturally sensitive in the indigenous culture of Pakistan. To cope with this issue, I observed the details quite carefully at each and every step and approached the conversations with caution and consideration.

My biggest success was winning the keen interest and generous support of public and private officials along the way. The departments and organizations who contributed tremendously and encouraged the idea are:

  • Population Welfare Department Govt. of the Punjab
  • Rahnuma – Family Planning Association Pakistan
  • UNFPA

My idea turned into a marvelous success and received acclaim by the organizations I worked with due to it being the first ever mobile application with all the necessary information available on a single platform. Moreover, the application is bilingual, and able to deliver information in Urdu (National language of Pakistan) and English (International language).

This idea opened new avenues for me and my organization MASHAL (Making A Society Healthier And Lively). I truly believe that this application, while having a long way to go, holds great potential.

 

 

Laraib Abid is an advocate and a Women Deliver Young Leader. The Women Deliver Young Leaders Program is a catalyst for rising advocates, providing access to small grants, training, a digital university, speaking opportunities, and networking. Since 2010, a total of 700 young people from 138 countries have increased their impact through the award-winning program so far. Many will be coming together in Vancouver this June for Women Deliver 2019, the world’s largest conference on gender equality. This piece was produced in partnership between Women Deliver and Wellbeing for Women.

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