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I am passionate about:
women's health and social justice.
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I'm originally from Portugal and after island hopping Manhattan, Singapore, and the UK, I will soon be calling Stockholm's archipelago my home. I'm a researcher/designer interested in human/woman-centered design interactions and prototypes as catalysts for discussion, mainly on topics of taboo. My long-term goal is to design technologies that can assist social justice pursuits and have the potential to vastly improve women’s experiences in health transactions, choices, and rights.
However, through deployment of the original toolkit in multiple workshop settings (with women and girls aged 15-52, at the time living in the UK, and representing a multitude of backgrounds), we understood that practical knowledge of the body, when directly associated with reproductive health and sexual health education, was missing, and misconceptions about different body parts were plentiful. Links to published research: https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2858187&CFID=776684051&CFTOKEN=69636615 https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2858119&CFID=776684051&CFTOKEN=69636615
All in all, pelvic health is crucial to SRH: it is key to sexual wellbeing and integral to reproductive function. We use pelvic awareness to ignite the discussion of a multitude of issues relating to SRH.
Q2B. - Successful completion of the initial pilot with the e-textiles toolkit in Cape Verde; - Number of users/returning users on our Resource site; - Number of users for our accompanying iOS Augmented Reality app.
Q3. 1) Scaling on the ground via collaboration with local educators and health professionals: Bitness has established ongoing collaborations within Cape Verde, which include Womeniseit and Self Care. Womeniseit works towards the empowerment of women. It is a platform that promotes networking, meetings, coaching, giving a voice to each and every Portuguese-speaking (Lusophone) woman. We envision working together in developing and disseminating this project across the ten islands that form the Cape Verde archipelago, but also to reach further and across other Portuguese-speaking countries and the Diaspora. Furthermore, we are currently in conversations with CVTelecom, the biggest telecommunications service provider in Cape Verde, whom has already shown interest in establishing a partnership for further developments, which will include a mobile app feature for SRH awareness and education in women and girls.
2) Scaling digitally: The idea/component for which we would be so excited to have the support and recognition of OpenIDEO and UNFPA’s, is design-led and emphasizes a ‘learning by making’ approach. We also see this approach fit to bringing digital to the utmost rural and disconnected areas in the country, whereas a digital resource directory (Part 2) and an augment app component will add-on and certainly prove resourceful within communities with wide internet access/where telephone density is higher. Integrating a technological component and the collaboration with CVTelecom will allow for the project to reach a wider audience at national scale. We will also establish links with local startups in Cape Verde. Currently, we are collaborating with Self Care, which is a platform that envisions a novel and disruptive approach to health care and the existing healthcare system in the country.
Q4. 1) Initial interest during academic research phase: Through deployment of the original toolkit in multiple workshops in the UK, we understood that practical knowledge of the body, when directly associated with reproductive health and sexual health education, was missing, and misconceptions about different body parts and were plentiful. This research resulted in presentations and awards in multiple international conferences (ACM CHI 2016, Augmented Human 2015, ACM SIGCHI Designing Interactive Systems 2014, and invitations to curated shows at Parsons School of Design, New York; muca-Roma, Mexico City; Piksel, Norway. Press included interviews with Racked, Visão, Activa; mentions in diverse health and lifestyle online media, such as HelloFlo, iafrica, Mic, Bustle, Glamour, SELF.
2) Local site Cape Verde: When in Cape Verde, the team leader introduced the project at i) a workshop in the University of Cape Verde and ii) Women’s Summit. The introduction of and novelty of the medium (digital textiles) and nuanced application in relation to the female body (associated with taboo) also led to multiple press interviews: Expresso das Ilhas, Sapo CV, UNICV, Record TV, TCV Televisão de Cabo Verde.
Q5. Teresa has done research work and has ongoing collaborators willing to support novel technologies for women in Egypt, Cape Verde and India. However, and based on recent feedback and networking in Cape Verde, decision was made to narrow down the initial scope (for R&D and beta testing) and do the initial idea pilot within the context of Cape Verde. Here, we will collaboratively design and develop the textile resources included in the toolkit; disseminate the toolkit with the support of existing team/health professionals network. Currently, the existing network spans the islands of Santiago and Fogo only. By 2020, the vision is to have expanded to all ten islands that form the archipelago. Further down the line, the ultimate goal is to, via Cape Verde, expand the utility of this toolkit to all six Portuguese-speaking African countries: all of which currently have UNFPA’s support in improving SRH.
Thank you for your thoughtful feedback and comments. This project aims to bring to life an existing academic study on the use of digital textiles to promote awareness and spark conversations around SRH. We are extremely excited to be working at refinement stage of this call.
Several key developments happened since the Idea Phase of the challenge:
1) In November, the team leader (Teresa Almeida) was invited to attend and present at the Women’s Summit in Cape Verde, Africa. While there, she not only gave talks about the Bitness project at the Women’s Summit and the University of Cape Verde, but also made valuable connections to local activists, journalists, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and health professionals involved in tacking different SRH problems. These encounters led to finding collaborators and partners and brainstorming about using the ten islands that form the Cape Verde archipelago as the initial test site for The Bitness Project toolkit. During the visit Teresa also discovered that the Portuguese speaking regions in Africa tend to be overlooked in terms of developing innovative educational solutions due to language barriers. Her native fluency in Portuguese will give her a necessary advantage when interacting with local communities on the ground and makes Cape Verde a natural first test site.
2) The team brainstormed around the idea of having a “3 point solution” for SRH education comprised out of the 3 interconnected elements a) Digital Textiles toolkit b) Directory for local Health professionals c) Digital solution to supplement the toolkit. The details are incorporated into the answers below.
Responses to your questions and concerns 1 through 5 (1/2):
Q1. The Bitness Project aims to introduce a comprehensive set of resources regarding SRH, including information regarding intimate anatomy, which has been identified as critical to girls and women’s reproductive health and sexual wellbeing. We are proposing a "3 point solution” for SRH education that will allow for both utilization of modern digital tools and hands on personalized learning and interactions using the Bitness textiles toolkit.
Part 1: How does my body work: A) Digital Textiles Toolkit Shortage of resources and access to health providers early on and throughout one’s lifetime can have a significant impact on girls and women’s perspectives of their sexual and reproductive health. The toolkit is a fun, interactive game-like hands-on experience. It will not only be a learning experience but will also help foster the conversation about the “hidden” parts of the body, what is often a taboo subject in many cultures. The initial pilot site for the project will be the Cape Verde archipelago, and will be done through a partnership will local health professionals, community centers and entrepreneurs. The following companies in Cape Verde already expressed interest in partnering with Bitness: networking platform Womeniseit, healthcare platform SelfCare, telecommunications service provider CVTelecom. As we continue our pilot on the archipelago we are planning to attract many others, especially in the education and healthcare sectors. B) At the same time, we will also begin initial prototyping of an Augmented Reality iOS app that we envision will supplement the digital textiles toolkit in delivering a more accurate visualization tool for educators. Since the app will be freely available at the App Store, it will facilitate the expansion of the Toolkit/App combo worldwide.
Part 2: Where can I get help: Creating a location-based online resource directory to accompany the kit—so people can contact health care professionals even after the workshop is completed. The online resource will be developed concurrently with the pilot, so the information will be naturally added for each pilot site as we move along. In turn, the health care and SRH educational services listed can use our Toolkit/App as a visual aid in their own practice. Developing those reciprocal relationships will be very useful once we move to Part 3 of our project.
Part 3: Textile tool as sensor: Basic self-monitoring. Following the successful implementation and adoption of Parts 1 and 2 of our project, we plan to transform the toolkit into both educational and diagnostic tool by including wearable sensors that will collect data, and thus possibly use it as a tool for remote patient monitoring.
Q2A. The Bitness Project aims to tackle SRH education in its diverse components. The project starts as a platform for pelvic health education but down the road it will expand into other areas. Pelvic awareness is a natural starting point since the foundation for this project is a comprehensive academic study in which Teresa spearheaded an investigation into pelvic fitness in young women. At the time, the goal was to understand how pelvic awareness could contribute to continence care and prevention (published research attached).