🧕🏿♀️ Raaji finds Partners 👭🤝
It’s been a manic week at Aurat Raaj. Our team is everywhere - in schools testing our chatbot, at incubators giving creative storytelling workshops, in Germany working with international feminist organisations to learn and bring back knowledge and here in our office making partnerships with sustainability focused organisations for a healthier future of girls in Pakistan.
First things first, we are so excited to announce that a locally owned leading company in personal hygiene care in Pakistan named Santex partnered with us on our “Raaji - Mera Pehla Mahwari” pilot. Santex, for us felt like the right partner, as they have been advocating and supporting women’s health entrepreneurs from Pakistan on menstrual hygiene educational activities for underprivileged audiences. In the past, they worked with women’s health startup Docthers. Santex started off in the early 80s, when its founder, Imtiaz Rahman, brought the first sanitary napkins machine to Pakistan and his company played a big role in how women experienced personal hygiene. To this day, my old-school mother knows and recommends their products.
This collaboration between them and Aurat Raaj was made possible through a UNICEF menstrual hygiene conference we attended in Islamabad that took place just a few months ago. That’s where we met Santex’s Development and Strategy Lead Samrah Humayun . A few conversations down the road, we were sitting together in a completely different audience, but delivering the same message - “let’s remove the shame around normal body processes”.
Our partner joined us at The Garage School for our second pilot in Karachi with a different age bracket of girls. Older girls were even more excited to receive their “Hello Period!” booklets as well as their first Butterfly sanitary pad pack. For many of them this will be the first time they will ever use a sanitary hygiene product. One of the biggest pluses of their pads is its breathability and we made sure that the girls saw why this feature was especially important.
The Garage School has a special place in my heart. Its founder has one of the most heartwarming stories. Started by a single mother, Shabina Mustafa never forgot her late husband’s dream of opening a school in Pakistan. She started off right from her own garage and taught the kids herself and today it stands as three story school serving an urban slum and has inaugurated their learning center which comes fully equipped with a multimedia for engaging sessions.
This time, we had a larger audience turnout than we had predicted, almost 60 girls and so we thought about adding some fun games about the concept of equality and what Aurat Raaj stands for. To demonstrate the power of support, a safe space and no judgment, the girls held hands with each other in tight circles and revealed something small but important to each other. To showcase what limited mobility does for a woman’s opportunities, the girls tried to catch some colorful balls we threw at them. Only problem was, they couldn’t run or walk and had to stay still in one place to catch them. Never have we had a more anxious, excited and engaging audience.
Then we started off using our chatbot on menstrual hygiene. The highlight of all of this has been seeing our technology lead Jaya Rajwani become this powerhouse. She runs operations, builds & troubleshoots tech, leads workshops and can write/present a killer proposal for a grant, partnership or pitch. One of the reasons why I hired her was because she had this absolute thirst for knowledge and learning. But in less than six months, she’s transformed her learning into kickass “doing”. Retirement for me might really be in order soon :)
Impact measurement was one of the weakest areas I once thought we had as an organisation. Not because we didn’t want to do it, but more because we didn’t know how to measure a mindset shift. But now we’ve narrowed it down to a tee. Our pre-quiz and post-quiz results have shown dramatic improvement in girl’s understanding about their bodies, periods, health and and we are adding more questions with the help of our partners to better understand where the knowledge gaps are. Most of all, capturing this key data is helping us design a more intelligent and focused bot/machine.
Our next pilot will be taking us to AGHAZ School in Limogoth. This partnership has been made possible by one of my dearest friends and mentors from the United Arab Emirates - Sophia Ahmed. Sophia and I have only met once but she thinks I am a star. And when she says it, I somehow start to believe it. These days I try to surround myself only with positivity. She’s a sounding board for many women like me in tech of Pakistan. Every time, we feel discluded, disrespected, disowned, we come to her and complain. She listens and advocates on our behalf. It’s because of women like her that Manels & Manferences are slowly becoming a thing of the past. It’s also because of her, many women are running their organisations and pursuing their studies.
Next week, you’ll also be seeing us pitch at the finals for Standard Chartered Women in Tech program, and leading an in-house session with one of our favorite audiences of young sportswomen from Orangi Town. Its open-house at our office so come join us, volunteer, support us in the way you feel best.
Most of all, keep your fingers crossed as we count down to the INDEX AWARDS in September 2019 where we are one of the finalists! Pray this Pakistani woman-led tech venture throws it down hard and brings it back home.
A big thank you to our photographers : Sehar Palla & Sadia Aaminah