Anybody Can join
Women need Maya
Published: 22 September, 2011
Single working mother of a 4 year old boy...need I say more? :-)
Listed in Current news, Feminism, Women's rights
Shahana Siddiqui writes about an interactive new website that caters to pregnant women with help and advice online
Becoming pregnant was one of the best decisions of my life. Not only did it give me the love of my life, my son, but during my pregnancy and its aftermath revealed to me some harsh facts about giving birth, being a mother, and who are there to support you through the agony of labour, the confusions and doubts of the first few months with a new born child, and how little information or help there really is for women. It wasn’t long before I realized that even among the educated families most women are pretty much clueless when it comes to the facts, the biology and science that is at work behind ‘the miracle’ at play. The stories and advice are mostly old wives tales and outright ignorant. A personal favourite was when someone advised me to drink lots of milk so that the baby has a fair complexion! I couldn’t believe my ears, was it possible to have such a conversation in this day and age? Evidently yes. I began to compile a list of silly pregnancy comments every week, with my best friend, who was also pregnant at the same time contributing her share of silly comments. We soon realized that in many ways, we were each truly alone in our experiences. Pregnancy is an isolating and unique experience for a woman. This could be unnerving at best and terrifying at worse. People around us were not much help, either. It was confusing and overwhelming with all the unsolicited advice, my best friend having a completely different pregnancy, the hordes of books and on-line information, most written and given by people from a different culture, and so on. While I did learn a few vital things from books such as Heidi Murkoff’s ‘What To Expect When Expecting’ (Soon to be a Hollywood film) and some websites, if truth be told, I wish I had more access to detailed information on the experiences of women from my background and culture, meaning Bangladeshi women. Some things are better expressed and explained when you share a common language. Only someone from Bangladesh can tell you how best to deal with ‘helpful’ in-laws before and after you give birth.
There are so many questions that women have, especially if they are young and first time mothers, many of us are far from our immediate families and do not have the support of an extended family as our mothers did. Where does a woman go if she wants support during pregnancy? What should she do to prepare herself for situation post-pregnancy? What are baby blues and how severe can they get? Is it normal to want to kill everyone around you? If yes, for how long does it last and where do you find the help you need? What about baby products? Where can we find them in Dhaka? Which ones are safest to use? How do you know what to do? What exactly do you need for a baby? What is practical and what is impossible to find in Bangladesh? What isn’t? Why do we need a baby monitor? I learned by trial and error.
Fast forward to 2011 and a friend introduced me to Ivy Huq Russell, who then emailed me about a project to set up a website that would cater to women’s issues. Russell lives in the UK, but was in Dhaka so we met for coffee and she explained how the idea for the website came to her. Not surprisingly, it began when she was pregnant, and after giving birth to her daughter when she came to Dhaka she faced situations that were fraught with difficulties, the stories were familiar, all dealing with women’s access to basic facilities and healthcare., and of course all the things that were not addressed in Western websites and books.
The website called Maya made me wish that it had existed when I was pregnant. The project is part of the UK’s National Health Services (NHS) initiative and focuses mainly on pregnancy and safe motherhood. The pilot site provides pregnancy related tools and guidelines that are in-depth, medically up to date and caters to the needs at a nationwide scale. This is a site where women can find and share information related to pregnancy, birthing, child rearing and related experiences, and get news and updates, making it a complete pregnancy tool.
The first such website of its kind, Maya may be designed with the educated English speaking population, but that doesn’t mean that it is not a segment that needs such help and advice, as was evident from my own experiences and that of Russell’s. The website launched on 13 September and is a very user friendly, with graphics that reflect the culture of the region. The information and tone is positive, to remind us that the experience of pregnancy is meant to be joyful. It is satisfying to see a website that gives a positive message to women.
Russell has bigger plans for the site and wants to include topics that go beyond pregnancy, and she wants to make it bi-lingual so that more women can access it and use it for their benefit. The ultimate aim is for Maya to evolve into a one-stop information centre for women and men, through a multi-faceted platform where women can discuss and share all the topics that they want to, and find various solutions.
The website is one of the most interesting initiatives that I have come across in my line of work, which exposes me to innumerable projects. Maya is by far the most impressive in its content and intent. This truly exciting initiative marks a fundamental step forward for women in our society.
Please check out Maya at www.maya.com.bd and do recommend women you know to use it. As it is knowledge based site, it requires people to use it so that it can evolve and grow, to become the essential site for women.
If you have any suggestions or comments please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org