Samirah Dekowski Maison: Partnerships & Community for Women’s Reproductive Health
Howdy folx, my name is Spiffy, I’m an interplanetary journalist who has been traveling the globe to interview Planet Earth’s brightest leaders. Today I’m talking to Samirah, CEO & Co-Founder of Massira Technologies.
Spiffy: Hi Samirah, thanks for meeting with me, I hear you’re addressing challenges in women’s health. What specifically are you doing?
Samirah: Of all the ways women are disadvantaged in society, women’s mental and physical health are also misunderstood and neglected.
African women bear a huge burden of disease and death during their reproductive years with over 500 women dying daily in Sub-Saharan Africa (WHO) and many more are living in pain from preventable sexual and reproductive health issues. This is caused by factors such as stigma, poor social support, inadequate dissemination of information, faulty cultural beliefs, limited access to healthcare products, and services.
Massira is a leading female-centered support community that specializes in providing sexual, reproductive, and mental health services and is committed to educating, empowering, and connecting women to improve health outcomes in Africa.
Above, the Massira team in action. Courtesy of Samirah Dekowski Maison.
Spiffy: What motivates you to do this?
Samirah: I met my co-founders, Ada Tapily, Favour Barde, and Micael Dié at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST). Our shared interest in closing the gender gap for accessible healthcare options and passion for women empowerment led us to develop and co-found Massira. We each had intimate experiences dealing with sexual, reproductive, and mental health issues with stigma and the lack of social support as a common thread.
Yet, we consider ourselves privileged to have observed the lives of women in our families who for generations have battled and struggled in silent pain.
Spiffy: And how is your team working to make the world a more equitable place?
Samirah: Massira is taking a holistic and life-course approach to address the gender disparity in healthcare by providing access to information, products, and services to de-stigmatize menstrual, mental and sexual health and aid in the early diagnosis and treatment of preventable women reproductive health issues.
Spiffy: What is a milestone that Massira has reached recently in improving women’s health?
Samirah: Female porters called Kayayo in Ghana migrate from rural communities to urban cities in search of work. They toil away in markets yet earn so little and have a poor standard of living, hygiene, and nutrition. We collaborated with Ecotowels on outreach in August 2020 to provide sanitary hygiene products to 135 Kayayos in Agbogbloshie, Accra, and engage with some of these women to understand their personal hygiene routine especially during their periods, health challenges, and provide health tips.
Spiffy: Tell me about a time when you encountered failure. How did you get through it? What was your mindset?
Samirah: At the inception of the idea, we were faced with a thousand reasons why it would not be a viable business and would unlikely be funded by the MEST Investors. As a team, we stuck to our guns and kept at it, iterating and refining our solution. During this period, we redefined what success meant to us. Improving health outcomes for our sisters, mothers, and ourselves was of utmost priority to us irrespective of the funds. I believe that was the pivotal moment in our journey. To our surprise and great delight, we received the seed investment from MEST some months later.
Spiffy: Sometimes the key can be to tune everything out until you reach success! Thank you so much for talking to me today.
Samirah is a multi-potentialite, entrepreneur, software developer, and civil engineer from Ghana with work experience playing multiple roles including Engineer, Co-manager, Entrepreneur, Project Manager, and currently, a co-founder and CEO of Massira Technologies Limited. (Nominated by Global Bio Fund)