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Ask Without Shame: supports youth in sexual and reproductive emergencies anonymously via mobile



Ask Without Shame promotional Sticker

Tell us a few words about the founders and how the idea came

AWS was founded by Ruth Nabembezi, who grew up in an orphanage home in Uganda. Her parents passed away when she was young because of AIDS. Her sister developed severe skin rashes, the village believed she was possesed by demons and took her to a witch doctor where she died. She was born with HIV and could have been saved if treated by medical doctors. Ruth developed a frustration that people in Uganda do not have information in regards to sex and are not supposed to speak about it. 

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Ask Without Shame provides emergency sex education via mobile through an android app, WhatsApp, calls and SMS. Medical experts and counselors are available 24/7 to assist users with the right information regarding sexuality.

Ask Without Shame has been able to debunk myths, stop probable HIV transmissions and unwanted pregnancies. Ask Without Shame is offering sex education at the fingertips of every youth from the age of 12 to 35 years without judgment or shame. Many users share information with us they are too ashamed and afraid to share with anyone else.

Your success factors 

Ask Without Shame launched in in Dec. 2015 and has responded to over 70,000 questions from 35,000 users. Through 3000 stickers in public mini busses we have been able to reach about 25,000 users and had to stop stickering because we were overwhelmed with incoming questions before our cloud based call center solution went live in November 2016.

There are over 20 million youth in reproductive age in East Africa and over 1 billion across the African continent. We want that all African youth have access to the information they need when it comes to sexuality to be able to make informed decisions for themselves.

Because our founder Ruth has been able to transform her own difficult past inot a strenght, she won the African Women Award in the category of “Young Change Maker”, she won the Queen’s Young Leader Award and was nominated for the BBC Outlook Inspirations Award. Ask WIthout Shame also won the appsafrica Innovation Awards in the categoryof “Social impact”. All this happened in 2016.

Your factors differentiating and disruptive compared to the existing

Speaking about sex in East Africa is considered a taboo and many youths have no or little access to the information they need. Especially girls, who have been abused or raped, have often no place to get support from because they fear the stigmatization from the family and society. They often end up suffering in silence and believing that something is wrong with them while staying disempowered.

The users of Ask Without Same are typically from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially lacking basic needs and are often too ashamed to tell anyone about their problem. Some are for example school children forced to have sex in return for school fees, others are young women facing domestic violence. Ask Without Shame offers a free and pragmatic solution to cover an immense lack of sex information in young people due to a taboo in the East African society. Some girls have also contacted us after having been raped.

 Your business model (how do you make money?)

We operate on a freemium model. Many users have shared information with us, which they have not shared with anyone else and do not want to share to others, even if we refer them to seek medical help. We are currently setting up our own clinic, specialized in sexual health. Users requiring medical services come in and pay for the treatment or the coaching services. We are also making referrals to partner clinics on commission basis.

The biggest revenue will come in through the data we capture. In the near future we will be able to generate reports on the specific needs of e.g. NGOs working in the field of sexual rights, on the exact challenges youth are facing to a topic in a specific area. Getting reliable data in developing countries on a taboo topic is almost impossible, while keeping the anonymity ofour users, we are ableto exactly tell what challenges the youth are facing.

A few words about your competitors

Ask Without Shame is a social business, tackling a social problem through business. We therefore do not see other organizations as our competitors but asour partners, driving the samesocialchange. We have thereforealready partnered with Marie Stopes Uganda, providing a helpline on family planning and with the LoveDoctor from India, giving a helpline and WhatsApp supporton relationship issues.

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