When people were panicking to go out during the Covid-19 pandemic, a group of rural women entrepreneurs in some remote areas of Bangladesh helped local communities get health services from doctors by using a mobile app which is still active.
"We have been connecting rural people with the specialist doctors in Dhaka through a Click Health teleconsultation platform at a nominal cost. The doctors are providing prescriptions by listening to the description of symptoms over phone which was beyond the imagination of the villagers," Bandana Roy, entrepreneur of Gangarampur Women Business Centre, Batiaghata, Khulna described their success story on Thursday at a workshop at a city hotel.
Even the female patients who were planning to go abroad for treatment have been cured by taking medicine as per the advice of the physicians through the mobile app, she added.
The workshop titled 'Rural Women Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh: Learnings from Women-led Social Enterprise in the Covid Period and Pathways Forward for Accountable Development' was jointly hosted by the GIZ Bangladesh, United Purpose Bangladesh, Trinamul Unnayan Sangstha, and mPower.
A total of 116 trained women entrepreneurs are providing telemedicine health services using 'Coronay Koronio' and 'Sushtho' apps to identify Covid-19 symptoms.
The project titled 'Mobilising Rural Women Entrepreneurs for Covid-19 Response and Recovery in Bangladesh' is being implemented in Khulna, Jamalpur, Noakhali and Khagrachhari districts since 2020 led by United Purpose Bangladesh.
Under the project, women entrepreneurs have gained expertise in using ICT apps and have been providing health services through the apps using smart phones.
"The women entrepreneurs here have been working on awareness building on nutrition and malnutrition-related problems, washing hands and wearing masks. The activities of the women business centres should be expanded throughout the country for facilitating women leadership and their empowerment," said Sriramappa Gonchikara, country director, United purpose.
Subhagya Mangal Chakma, senior advisor, United Purpose told TBS that since 2015, they have started the process to establish one WBC at the remote villages comprising five women entrepreneurs by building their capacity. There are over 400 centres and sub-centres in 39 districts where 1,525 women entrepreneurs are involved. About three lakh agro producers are directly involved with these centres, he added.
At the onset of Covid pandemic, these women entrepreneurs were trained in healthcare services through a selective process.
A total of 58 WBCs served over 25,943 patients through 'Click Health Teleconsultation' service from 21 October 2020 till 21 September 2022.
Around 58,000 households were registered for health and nutrition promotion under the initiative, according to the information provided at the event.
Dr Shah Ali Akbar Ashrafi, chief, Health Informatics Unit, Directorate General of Health Services observed that the Surokkha app of the DGHS is being used more in urban areas compared to the rural areas.
"We can increase our registration coverage on Surokkha app by using the network of the women entrepreneurs along with bringing those children under vaccination coverage who are not enrolled in schools and for birth and death registration in villages," he said.