A voice-based app developed by women to improve access to health information that is reliable, comprehensible, and confidential
Women lack access to health information they need to make informed decisions
Traditional roles persist and social norms discourage women from leaving home, even to seek healthcare at the health center
More than half of women living in peri-urban communities have no formal education, another 30-40% have some primary education, meaning they likely have trouble with literacy and numeracy skills. Nationally, Mali’s literacy rate for women is just 25.2% (MIS, 2021)
Geographic and financial barriers can make it difficult or costly to reach the health center for information, care, or services
Malian women continue to access SRH services at very low rates: only 16% of women use modern contraception and there is a significant unmet need for family planning, at 26.6% (DHS-IV)
Women in Mali have a high fertility rate at 6.3 children per women (DHS-IV), and the adolescent fertility rate is one of the world’s highest at 150 per 1,000 live births
THE COMMUNITY-LED SOLUTION
As a digital solution tailored to increase access to healthcare and services for marginalized women, Kènèya Blon has several unique features :
Traditional mobile interfaces require the ability to input numbers (IVR) or read text messages (SMS). Kènèya Blon’s interface can be navigated through audio cues, and content is available in audio and visual formats. Women can access audio recordings in Bambara and an audio chat function that where they send and receive messages to health providers completely by voice.
With Kènèya Blon, women can access the health information they seek without leaving home. To use the app, they need a smartphone and about $0.25 worth of data to download it. Content can be downloaded (and messages uploaded) on-demand, whenever a connection is available. Once downloaded, health content and messages are stored locally on the phone, where they can be shared with friends, neighbors, and husbands.
As we observed during COVID-19, health misniformation and rumors can be hard to combat. Kènèya Blon provides information developed by medical providers and behavior change experts. They can also reach out to a provider any time to ask questions, using the audio chat function. That function can refer them to their health center or connect them to a brief consultation so they can receive information directly from a trusted source.
Some health information, espeically related to contraception and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) remains taboo for women, especially for adolescents young women. It can also be uncomfortable to seek this information at the health center for fear of judgement. With Kènèya Blon, women can discretely and privately access the SRHR information they need and deserve – which they are unable to access anywhere else.
In 2018, with support from the USAID WomenConnect Challenge, Mali Health conducted research into social norms around ICT (information and communications technology) use in peri-urban communities. We used those results to work alongside 400 women in Sabalibougou to develop and test Kènèya Blon, to design a technology that would meet their needs.
The participation of women who are normally excluded from development processes, who had little familiarity with smartphones as a tool for accessing information, has been key to its impact and its popularity.
Oury lives in Lafiabougou Taliko, a peri-urban community in Bamako, with her husband and five children. She sells health products in her community, like soap and bleach. With an interest in health, Oury had participated in a community event during COVID-19, where we were developing and testing health messages. In 2023, as we were promoting the new functions of Kènèya Blon in her community, she volunteered to share her experiences :
<< Kènèya Blon opened my eyes, because I had births very close together. I didn’t know what to do because I never had the opportunity to receive information about family planning.
One day when I went for my child’s vaccination at the health center, the midwife told me about Kènèya Blon. I installed it on my phone and started receiving the information. I was able to be in contact with health personnel who responded to my concerns in a confidential manner.
I subsequently decided to adhere to a long-term family planning method. I received the necessary advice and was able to obtain the method from the health provider at my health center. Without any fear of having closely spaced pregnancies, today, I have time to carry out my activities properly and my family lives in perfect harmony. >>
With support from Grand Challenges Canada, we recently improved the SRHR content to Kènèya Blon and streamlined the process of getting a referral to the user’s local community health center, in an effort to increase access to information about, demand for, and use of family planning services. By the end of the one-year project, in September 2023, we collected the following data:
Total users of Kènèya Blon
of users improved their health knowledge
of users sought contraception for the first time
Mali Health improves maternal and child health by supporting women, communities, and the community health system to develop local solutions that ensure every mother and child has access to quality primary care.
PO Box 51632, Durham, NC 27717
Hamdallaye ACI 2000
Rue 100, Porte 222
Commune IV du District de Bamako
Côté Ouest de l’Ecole de Maintien de la Paix Alione Blondin Beye