Addressing sexual health issues for young people in Uganda can be difficult, but one woman social entrepreneur is empowering them to obtain accurate information when they need it via a new mobile interactive platform. Ask Without Shame provides a platform for young people to ask any sexual health questions of qualified medical experts, in a non-threatening environment via an android mobile application and via sms. It is empowering young people to take control of their bodies and their health through access to information and advice.
LoA found out more about this important social enterprise and its impact from its founder, Ruth Nabembezi.
What does your company do?
Ask Without Shame is an interactive platform providing accurate information about sexual related issues through an android mobile application, SMS service and voice call. We reach young Ugandan adults, especially girls and woman, between 10 - 30 years, answering their questions and concerns. Our aim is to help prevent HIV infections and youth pregnancies.
"I founded the platform Ask Without Shame so that young adults can ask any kind of question regarding their sexual health, without any fear or shame, and they can get the right information from medical experts in an anonymous way without judgement."
What inspired you to start your company?
I´m an HIV orphan and grew up in an orphanage in Uganda called Kankobe Children’s Home. My parents and my beloved younger sister died because of HIV. Before my sister Pamela died, she lost a lot of hair and weight. The neighbors in the village thought she was possessed by demons. She was taken to a shrine where they wanted to cleanse her. But it didn´t help and she died soon afterwards. She would have lived longer, if she was sensitized about HIV and had received the right information and treatment from the medical experts. From the tremendous experience I went through, it peaked my personal interest in medical issues and creating awareness around HIV and other diseases. There are many young adults like Pamela who do not get access to the right information and end up believing in dangerous myths. Thats why I founded the platform Ask Without Shame. There they can ask any kind of question regarding their sexual health, without any fear or shame, and they can get the right information from medical experts in an anonymous way without judgement.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
First of all every young adult should have the right to get true information when it comes to their own body and health issues. Young adults should use our service because they are able to get the right information at any time concerning sexual health issues from medical experts. The application is downloaded fast and used in an anonymous way. Everyone is able to reach out to the medical experts, even without a smartphone.
"I want to reach out to as many youth as possible to help them in getting the right information about sexual health and to spread the message about Ask Without Shame across the whole of Uganda."
Tell us a little about your team
After coming up with the idea in the beginning of 2015, I founded Ask Without Shame. I work together with 3 medical experts who respond back to questions and answer phone calls. We also have a technical expert in our team, who developed the application and helps keeping it up to date. I cooperate with my Mentor, Etienne Salborn from Germany, who helped me in working on my idea. We have a marketing team of 8 women and 1 gentleman, as well as a finance team consisting of 2 gentlemen.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
After I completed my high school education, I joined the Social Innovation Academy where young adults come up with their own project ideas and are helped to develop them into their social business through trained Mentors and Coaches. After developing my idea I applied for the Ampion Venture Bus tour, a pan-African organization supporting technical and innovative startups. I was given the opportunity to be part of it at the end of 2015. From there, I built up a team consisting of the app developer and medical experts. From that time, the mobile application as well as the website was created, and Ask Without Shame was born.
"I hope that I can in turn inspire many other girls and woman to believe in themselves and put their ideas into action."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I want to reach out to as many youth as possible to help them in getting the right information about sexual health, and to spread the message about Ask Without Shame across the whole of Uganda. By the end of this year, I want to have 10,000 questions coming in per month and I want to have 25,000 users. I would also love to establish a call centre in Uganda to handle incoming phone calls easier and faster. I want to develop a webapp and a server app to enhance the data management and increase my team by introducing more medical experts.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I feel empowered because it is still rare for woman in Uganda to work on technical projects, creating their own social business or being an entrepreneur. I am very satisfied to change the image of Ugandan woman by creating my own mobile application, building up a social enterprise. I hope that I can in turn inspire many other girls and woman to believe in themselves and put their ideas into action.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
The biggest advice I want to give to other woman especially of my country is to break out of gender related thoughts and believe in their dreams. We profit from all the innovative and creative ideas that youth have. But most of the time they can not share and live out their creative thoughts. They are held back by the strict school schedule and cannot unleash their full potential.
Contact or follow Ask Without Shame
Why LoA loves it….
Social entrepreneurs are hardwired to make a difference, and in the case of Ruth Nabembezi, she is passionate about providing sensitive yet much needed information about sexual health issues to Uganda’s young adults. She is harnessing the power of mobile and internet technology to proactively reach out to these young people and to provide essential information at the touch of a screen. She is making a huge difference to the lives, health and wellbeing of young adults and empowering them to take control of their bodies and their health. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa