In Egypt, as in many places of the Middle East, the idea of discussing issues of sexual or reproductive health is taboo. Young people find it very hard to find a reliable source of information and are often told wrong or misleading information.
Enter Ma3looma, meaning ‘a piece of information’ in Arabic, a new Egyptian initiative based on the use of social media websites to raise awareness.
“Ma3looma is a project within One World’s Mobile4Good portfolio and is funded by the Ford Foundation,” said Sara Eldemerdash, one of the people behind the project. “It is a cross-media life skills program that enables and encourages young people to engage with sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues.”
Besides providing online information, the initiative’s main goal is to answer people’s inquiries. The information provided by Ma3looma is guaranteed to be accurate, since those who answer the inquiries are doctors. “We work with around 12 young male and female doctors who are specialised in sexual and reproductive health. They are going to answer people’s questions within 24 hours,” Eldemerdash said.
The initiative was founded based on the outcome of a study. “The idea for Ma3looma is based on one of the recommendations from a scoping study conducted early in 2012 among a number of active youth in civil society who are engaged in several sexual and reproductive health projects in Egypt,” said Eldemerdash.
“The study also highlighted the use of mobile phones and the internet among youth of the 25-34 age group as one of the main resources of information.” Based on those findings Ma3looma was founded in late 2012, filling a very wide gap in Egyptian society.
It is surprising that so far people are not arguing against the purpose of Ma3looma. When asked about people’s reactions, Eldemerdash said: “We have been receiving very positive feedback so far from a lot of friends and people who already started following us on Twitter and Facebook. In addition, we received a lot of offers to help with information and publicity so that we can increase our outreach among young people.”
So far the initiative seems to be reaching their target audience: “According to Facebook analytics, the Ma3looma Facebook page is most popular among the age group of 25-34, which tells us that we are on the right track,” Eldemerdash said.
Currently Ma3looma is only operating via Facebook and Twitter. However, they plan to extend their activities and reach. “A dedicated website will be launched by 1 April which will provide comprehensive, rights-based information about sexuality with a focus on gender equality, and directing young people to local, youth-friendly services. And hopefully by mid-2013 we will be able to launch a radio campaign that will aim to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health,” Eldemerdash said.