When you hear the word Maya Apa, its sound like a human name. But it is not. It is an Android-based mobile application. This application gives advice on a variety of health, social and legal issues to the women of Bangladesh.
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 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. A massive 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. As a result, various types of health, social and legal problems go unsolved. These women are the app's main constituency.
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.
Taniza T is a doctor by profession. She has seen problems connected to women's health up close in Bangladesh. She wrote a review of the App at the Google Play Store:
Impressive. Being a doctor I know how ppl hesitate to talk about their health related issues for long time before actually consulting to a professional. I love the concept and the app is phenomenal. But I would really like to see rapid response to questions. So 4 stars. I see great possibilities.
Maya village, the Facebook page of maya.com.bd, mentions that they earned positive responses from women who use the app to ask for advice on health, legal and psychological issues.
Aanika Islam expects that every women in Bangladesh to benefit from this app. She tweets:
Maya apa: Bringing information to every woman in Bangladesh – http://t.co/IndzECKdsy
— Aanika Islam (@aanika_islam) March 26, 2015
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 inside Bangladesh as part of their corporate outreach.
The app has emerged at a time when the Bangladesh communications market is showing no signs of slowing its growth. In Bangladesh there were 121.860 million mobile subscribers as of the end of January 2015. Half were women. Furthermore, 80 % of mobile phones will be internet-enabled by 2016. The app has been developed with basic Smartphones in mind in a bid to reach to everyone, especially rural women.
Beyond Bangladesh, women in any country in the world will be able to use Maya and take advice on their problems.
Ivy H Russell, Maya's founder, wants to continue building the app.
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, and there is a lot more on the roadmap this year.
Here is Ms. Russel's TEDxDhaka talk explaining the initiative:
Maya's team also won a prize at the Bangladesh Brand Forum's Inspiring Women Award 2015 in the Best Start Up category.
Hopefully, it will not turn into another lulu.