Matters reproductive health are some of the most guarded secrets among women.
From research, women often have questions touching on their reproductive health but are not able to find reliable online resources to help them.
Moreover, due to stigma they are unable to discuss these issues freely with family members or friends. The situation is aggravated by the current global medical emergency, which has shifted the focus from these issues to Covid-19 by medical facilities and specialists.
Kasha’s Health and Impact Director Malyse Uwase explains how women can freely access this information as well as health and personal care products and how COVID-19 pandemic has transformed their business operations.
Assume I am a first time client; how would I access your products?
Kasha has built a highly accessible e-commerce platform to support clients. They can easilyvisit the Kasha website or for those with no access to internet can dial *308# from any phone.
Additionally, we recruit and train agents in low-income communities who can assist women in placing orders and also conduct last mile delivery for products ordered in those communities.
Kasha’s platform availability online and offline ensures that women of all socio-economic backgrounds have access to genuine quality, affordable products which are delivered discreetly, in both urban and rural areas.
Our product range includes women’s health, personal care, menstrual care, and beauty products
You also provide an online platform where sex and reproductive health is discussed; what is the response so far?
The forum was launched recently and is available on Kasha Community Website. It is meant to be an online community where women can ask each other questions related to sexual and reproductive health and particularly on the use of contraceptives.
This came from research conducted through focus groups that indicated that women often have questions on these topics but are not able to find online resources to help them, or discuss freely with their family members, and at times friends since it can be a stigmatizing topic.
Therefore, an online community where women can post questions and support each other anonymously is a great tool to address this need and create a safe space for women to engage.
And what is the most discussed topic?
The most popular topics are on emergency contraceptives and their effectiveness, questions on best contraceptives to use as a new mom, and also requests for recommendations for gynecologists that provide good and quality services in a non-judgmental way.
From these interactions can you tell how well women understand their sexual and reproductive health?
Generally, all women have some ideas and standing when it comes to sexual and reproductive health. They might also know about a few contraceptive methods and how to use them.
However, there are gaps in information and knowledge and also lots of myths pertaining to the use of contraception.
This particularly affects young women who don’t feel comfortable going to the doctor or the nurse to ask questions. Married women tend to have more knowledge and are more confident in asking questions as well.
Things are changing but there is still some work to be done to ensure all women truly grasp and comprehend their sexual and reproductive health and are able to advocate for their rights.
Do men participate on these forums?
We serve both men and women but the platform is optimized for women. Therefore, due to the categories of products we have on our platform: personal care, menstrual care, beauty, and women’s health we have more women as customers. Our platform is optimized for women in both urban and rural areas. Customers are able to access our platform via our website or USSD (no internet required). We are therefore able to serve women in urban and rural areas across multiple SES. This said, we welcome all customers and we also serve men.
Covid-19 pandemic has also highlighted the epidemic of fake news; how is Kasha ensuring that people have access to the correct sexual and reproductive health information?
The forum is one effort to make sure we avail correct sexual and reproductive health information.
It is monitored by a nurse who is able to check it regularly and provide further guidance/information when needed. We also use our social media platforms to share information and have a blog section on our website where women can also find information.
Yours is a social enterprise involving clients and distributors: how has COVID-19 pandemic impacted business?
As an e-commerce platform, our services are needed during this time and we continue to serve our customers. Our office team works from home except for the supply chain team that works in shift to ensure the delivery of products.
We have seen an increase in demand for COVID-19 protective and prevention products (e.g. hand sanitizers, masks, gloves) and sometimes products are out of stock at the country level. We work closely with our suppliers to re-stock rapidly and also ensure we maintain quality standards.
We have also observed an increase in orders for other products such baby diapers and other mom and baby category items and finally our organic products as well.
Similarly, we have more orders for contraceptives. This indicates that women during this time are in need of products to prevent COVID-19, for their families, and also want to take care of their reproductive health needs.
As a health and tech company, we had been tracking the situation closely. We had started communicating to our team about possible changes in the ways we work and also started brainstorming on ways we can continue supporting our customers during this time of social distancing and deliver essential products.
Self-service/ self-care of pharmaceuticals and personal care products comes with its own risks such as misdiagnosis or drug overdose among others, how do you manage such risks?
Self-care products on our platforms are primarily home tests such as the HIV oral self -test kit, the pregnancy test, and contraceptives such as condoms or emergency contraceptives.
For the tests, they all come with usage instructions and our call centre agents can also explain how they work to customers. They are very easy to use and it’s rare that customers reach out because the test did not work, or they don’t understand the results.
For products like emergency contraceptives, we limit units per order and again all products come with informational leaflets on how to use them. Additionally, we have a pharmacist on shift during operational hours that supports customers and can address questions they might have.
This helps ensure that these products are delivered with the same information a person would receive if they went to a pharmacy in-person.
You have been on the forefront creating reproductive health awareness in schools; how do you get to community schools in rural areas?
We have agents in low-income areas who raise awareness on Kasha. Through the agent network, schools in small communities can also learn about us and be able to work with us.
With schools, we not only focus on the provision of products but also conduct health educational sessions. As an example, earlier, this year we had a health education session on menstrual hygiene for girls in grade 5 & 6 in Kibra.
What challenges does a social enterprise like yours deal with on a daily basis?
We have to be very creative as our model and approach consistently evolves so that we continue to serve women and in a way that is relevant to them. We build things as we go and sometimes there is no example to use a point of reference. It is both exciting and challenging at times but definitely rewarding when we are able to find the right solution.
With over 60,000 client base, what does success look like to Kasha?
Continuing to grow our customer base in Kenya and Rwanda where we are based, add services that support women around the provision of health information and products, and expanding into other countries. Our goal is to become the lead e-commerce platform for women’s health and personal care products within the emerging market.