Dr Anjali Kumar, Founder, Maitri Woman’s Health in an interaction with Kalyani Sharma highlights the role of technology in making healthcare for Indian women more accessible. She stresses that with the advent of smartphones and better data penetration in every nook and corner of India, rural women are also getting empowered. They are learning marketable digital skills, creating career pathways, and going beyond gender stereotype
Walk us through the journey of Maitri and please tell us about the company’s future plans for the Indian market?
Maitri is a digital space where we discuss anything and everything about women’s health. It is a platform where we celebrate womanhood and empower women by providing & facilitating access to the latest, medically verified and authentic information regarding physical, mental, emotional & social wellbeing of women across all ages. Maitri promises scientifically verified, authentic information& healthcare, imparted by specialists who are experts in their respective fields.
Towards this end, Maitri has released almost 100 videos regrading women’s health issues and now we also have a website which contains numerous articles related to women’s health as well as provides the option of online E-clinical consultations with our medical experts.
The future plans include the expansion and streamlining of E-clinics so as to provide consultations & healthcare inputs to women all over the country & abroad. The efforts are underway to onboard multiple doctors & healthcare providers in various cities across India and we aspire to make healthcare information & consultations easily accessible to women all across the country.
The website also has a provision to form community groups, which will be activated in the near future. The idea behind forming specific groups & communities is to allow women in the same phase of life or health condition, to interact with each other and to gain insights /valuable information regarding their condition. As such, we aim to create a community of self-empowered women who are supported by each other while dealing with their problems.
Additionally, Maitri is soon launching online courses and workshops for various health conditions e.g. PCOS management, weight loss programmes for PCOS patients & for women after childbirth, courses related to diet & fitness during pregnancy and beyond, Fitness & yoga courses for PCOS women and many more such programmes.
The future plans also include the launch of environment friendly, sustainable products for menstrual hygiene, pregnancy care, PCOS management and women’s healthcare.
How do you see the scalability of technology among rural women? What is the need of the hour in this direction?
With the advent of smartphones and better data penetration in every nook and corner of India, rural women are also getting empowered. They are learning marketable digital skills, creating career pathways, and going beyond gender stereotypes. Our government has also been playing an instrumental role in making rural women tech-savvy by launching various digital initiatives.
The Digital India Programme is emerging as a movement for social and economic empowerment while delivering its core mandate of digital access and connectivity for each and every Indian. The Common Services Centers and the Village Level Entrepreneurs, together, are one of the crucial pillars through which the iconic programme is being driven and turned into a reality on a day-to-day basis. The story of this change in motion is far more vibrant and inspiring. It is very interesting that how women in the rural communities are joining this mission while emerging as champions of change in their communities. National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) or Digital Saksharata Abhiyan (DISHA) is an ambitious project aimed at putting an end to digital divide among the citizens of India. The campaign stresses on Digital Literacy and at least making one in each family digitally literate.
In order to make the rural women more productive, we need to break the barriers which are obstructing their development. It’s high time that their innate intelligence is understood and channelized to aid the country’s progress.
The path to a healthy & progressive nation begins with healthy women & healthy mothers.
India is a country where majority of the population resides in small cities or villages. These places are fraught with multiple myths & taboos regarding women’s health & sexuality. The reproductive health is often ignored and women are very hesitant to discuss their doubts & queries regarding general menstrual health & hygiene with the people around them. Hence, Maitri has been introduced as a digital platform which provides access to authentic, trustworthy information regarding women’s health and gynecological conditions in an objective, non-judgmental manner.
What are your views on the socio-economic aspects impacting women’s health?
Substandard working conditions in industry and increasing stress from new and conflicting roles have deleterious effects on women’s health. The gender bias against women at workplace puts additional pressure on their minds while they’re trying to balance work & family life.
Very often, lack of empathy & understanding for their natural biological needs and unique feminine health issues leads to many women quitting their jobs in order to look after their children & family.
The women who do choose to balance their work-life & family are often so preoccupied by their professional & personal/social roles that they tend to ignore their own health issues and fail to seek medical help on time.
We need to create a more supportive & understanding environment for women at workplace as well as at home in order to promote healthcare awareness among them. The employers need to be more empathetic & formulate policies which allow flexibility in work schedules so as to accommodate women’s maternity care, menstrual healthcare, mental & emotional health in their routine without affecting the productivity. After all, only a healthy workforce can be a productive workforce.
At home also, we need to encourage families to be less judgmental & more supportive so as to facilitate the physical, emotional & mental wellbeing of the women in the house & society. The social & professional roles of men & women need to be redefined in order to ease the burden on women & allow them to achieve their maximum potential in the best of their health.
How did the pandemic adversely affect access to women’s health? Is the situation improving now that we are entering the post-COVID era and things are getting back to normal?
The COVID-19 pandemic has vastly changed the way that the world approaches healthcare. The enforced lockdowns & restrictions did adversely impact women’s healthcare to a large extent. Many women could not visit the hospitals for their health conditions & as a result we have noticed an increase in the magnitude of many bleeding disorders, malignant conditions, pregnancy complications etc. which could have been avoided if they had received healthcare on time at an early stage.
The incidence of miscarriages, preterm birth, medical complications in pregnancy & after delivery increased and according to a study published in the Lancet journal, there has been a significant increase in maternal death, stillbirth & maternal depression during the pandemic. The incidence of domestic & sexual violence has also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. For teenage girls, the incidence of physical neglect, sexual abuse & school dropout has significantly increased. The incidence of stress disorders, depression & neglected health issues has significantly increased all over the world, more so in women as compared to men (51 per cent v/s 34 per cent)
The home confinement & limited access to physical healthcare has resulted in the emergence of telemedicine as a ray of hope. Telemedicine has managed to take healthcare to the remote areas where medical facilities are often sparse & unavailable. With the development of modern tools & technologies, the quality of healthcare is improving and Maitri aspires to be a pioneer in the field of women’s healthcare through a digital platform.