Women, comprising close to half of the world’s total population, face several challenges to their health and well-being, which are unique to their gender. These include barriers to access to contraceptives, family planning, sexual and reproductive health, menstrual hygiene, abortion services, pregnancy-related complications, and breast and ovarian cancer, to name a few. Violence, a critical public health concern, affects women disproportionately. According to the United Nations, one in three women are victims of physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. To help us understand how can we address these issues we spoke to Sanghamitra Singh, Senior Manager, Knowledge Management and Partnerships at the Population Foundation of India. Here is what she had to say,

Sanghamitra Singh 

Women belonging to developing economies are particularly susceptible to poor health outcomes as the majority of their health concerns are compounded by a lack of adequate access to healthcare and cultural and gender taboos that deny them the agency to have open conversations about their sexual and mental health. According to data from the fifth round of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India’s National Family Health Survey (2019-21), 9% of women of reproductive age (15-49 years) in India have an unmet need for contraception. This means that despite wanting to access family planning services, these women are unable to do so due to various barriers they face. The inability to access contraceptives could potentially increase unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal and infant mortality. It is ironic that while women are primary caregivers in their homes, responsible for the health and wellbeing of their partners, children, and parents — their health loses priority amidst the barrage of responsibilities shouldered by them in their daily lives.
Women have unique health care needs that extend far beyond pregnancy and fertility and while barriers to high-quality, affordable and inclusive healthcare for women have been historically difficult to tackle, technology offers new hope. Technology has the potential to reach women in remote, underserved communities with reliable health information and low-cost, accessible, and high-quality health services. For example, the Population Foundation of India’s artificial intelligence-powered chatbot, SnehaAI, has been conceptualised and created to spread awareness around online abuse, and sexual and reproductive health and dispel sex-related myths and taboos.

Mestrupedia offers high social impact educational materials on puberty and related issues in the form of comic books, workshops, and animated videos.

Elda Health is a digital wellness platform offering timely mental, physical, social, and medical interventions for women through the course of their entire reproductive cycle.


The need for such tech innovations has never been greater. The COVID-19 pandemic has almost certainly exacerbated the pre-existing challenges women and girls face across every sphere. There has been an increase in incidents and reports of violence against women. Women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services has been compromised due to disruption in health services and diversion of resources towards the emergency response to the pandemic. The increased caregiving burden placed on them also severely strained their mental health.
There is an urgent need to prioritize and scale up innovative tech solutions for women’s health and safety. Such initiatives will bring attention to the many challenges women still face when it comes to health and safety and the tremendous opportunity that technology presents us. However, the women’s health tech market is still faced with obstacles such as the limited available research and disaggregated data on women’s health. The landscape is even more challenging in low-resource settings.
Given the link between women’s health outcomes and the health of society at large, the health system needs an invigorated focus on women’s health tech. Going forward, women need to be served as not just beneficiaries, but as gatekeepers and drivers of the health of their families and their communities. We must centre women in the design of digital health solutions, and leverage digital tools to ensure women’s health doesn’t remain on the fringes.

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