FreshStart normally posts content about the entrepreneurial landscape in Pakistan, wherever it may be. A TiE event, a conference at PlanX, or an interesting startup that is doing wonderful things are just some of the topics it has covered in the past – and continues to do so.
However, it was on the 14th of May, 2018, that FreshStart achieved a historic milestone in its 1.5 year existence by acting as a partner for a major event for the very first time. The occasion in this regard was #HackThePad, Pakistan’s First Ever Women Health and Hygiene Conference, held at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Sciences, from 10 AM to 5 PM. We were acting as Merchandise Partners, which meant we had sponsored the 200 mugs that were treated as ‘giveaways’ for both attendees, speakers, panelists, and notable guests at the occasion.
Pakistan has largely been a society closed to women specific health issues and menstrual hygiene is a major taboo even in moderate and educated circles and hence there hasn’t been much progress in this connection, they said.
The Pakistan’s first ever deliberations titled “#HackThePad: Women Health & Hygiene Conference”, organized by iCube, an organization working for women empowerment through entrepreneurship, in collaboration with Peace University, USA, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Motorway Police, and Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF), with the support of socially aware organizations including Careem, Shanghai printers, FreshStart, bookitnow.pk, Sehat here at Pakistan Institute of Parliamentarian Services (PIPS) on .
Speaking on the occasion, Romina Khursheed Alam, Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Climate Change and member of Young Parliamentarian Forum (YPF) said women health has a direct bearing on the generations to come and the need to take these issues seriously. She said it is about time to break the social taboos and raise voices that can be heard. She stressed the need for raising awareness at the grass roots levels to create an impact. Women in Pakistan, she said, are living a life of fear and subjugation in many forms at many different levels, and cannot discuss and talk about the problems they face, so there is a need to break this vicious cycle, she added.
Bilal Mumtaz, Director-Marketing Sehat and Founder of FreshStart, moderated a panel on “Menstrual Hygiene and its Associated Taboos”, in which Hina Kausar from WaterAid, Anam Bhatti from SHE, Dr Samina Naeem from MNCH, and Mahin Khan from Recircle were Panelists. He also held a talk on the state of Digital Healthcare in regards to making efforts to treating Women Health and Hygiene problems, and highlighted his partnership with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in developing a “Menstrual Kit” to be deployed in Girls’ Schools in Chitral
Wasma Imran Co-Founder of Recircle gave a talk on a specialized product she had developed specifically for menstrual hygiene, called a “Menstrual Cup” (follow this link for more details). She delved on the challenges she had on a societal level of bringing this cup to market, and even now only operates on a limited scale. She did manage to win the Innovation Award held by #HackThePad, which was announced at the end of the conference.
Dr. Zoona Saeed, renowned Gynaecologist of Cambridge University fame, gave a talk on the benefits of Cervical Screening as a prerequisite for the prevention of Cervical Cancer – which according to her had the highest prevalence rate of all the cancers in the world. She urged females present to get themselves checked regularly and provided a detailed discourse on challenges faced by Gynaecologists in Pakistan in the realm of informing young girls about how to treat their menstruation
Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, SDPI Executive Director, said the nation is preparing for the next general elections and political parties are making promises in their respective manifestos. He suggested the political parties to include women health and hygiene as an election promise in their respective party’s manifestos. “We cannot achieve health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) unless we empower our women by giving them their due rights, providing them education and involving them in the decision-making process,” he added.
Ziad Khan, Director, Peace University, USA said it is unfortunate that women health and hygiene related issues are not talked about or addressed the way they should be and the fact that something as natural as breathing is considered taboo requires all of us to introspect. He said around 97 per cent of the women are victims of malnutrition in Pakistan. Pakistani society is going through formative phase where we have a chance and a responsibility to solve problems through entrepreneurship, technology and advocacy as a personal initiative, he added.
Dr Mujeeb ur Rehman, Inspector General, Railways Police, said we have to change our attitude and actions towards the women and should ensure the provision of an enabling working environment where our women can harness their true potential. He said a woman with poor health impacts negatively upon whole family and subsequently impacts the whole society.
Khalid Mahmood, Additional IG, Motorway Police, talked about the need to revamp organizational structures to include provisions for women and their unique role in the society, as mothers, as the leaders that they are. He highlighted the current situation of women in law-enforcement agencies and discussed about the reforms Motorway Police has made to facilitate women. He also talked about the need to adopt international best practices for all other organizations to incorporate