Op-Ed: How does AI-bot will teach Pinoys about contraceptive methods?

#AskMara, Bayer Philippines newest initiative for reproductive health
#AskMara, Bayer Philippines newest initiative for reproductive health



Philippines is an island country that composed of 7,641 islands with a massive 108.6-million people squeezing like sardines, and continuously growing like a pack of guinea pigs in Mr. Doolittle’s lab.

And that’s crazy multiplication.




The thing is, Philippines is one of those developing countries that have poor healthcare system, including the access for contraception for its people. Majority of our citizens lives a dollar for a day, and buying these contraceptive products are not a priority, unless the government will generously finance these things and give them for free, at any given time and anywhere.

It is an ongoing and continuous battle educating our people about family planning and everyone of us have the responsibility to contribute our part.

Including private companies like Bayer, who is giving their efforts to share their expertise and technology to reach out the masses and spread the information about contraception. In this recent initiative, they launched ‘Ask Mara’ , the go-to-gal for online advice on contraception and reproductive health to help bridge this gap in the Philippines.

Who is Mara?

She isn’t your scary Auntie with dark-rimmed glasses and staring like a hawk.

Mara is an AI chatbot, a software where you can conduct conversation through typing messages or via audio. She is like your best buddy in high school, wearing short cut bob hair, expressive eyes, and will answer your questions about reproductive health (and when you are lucky, maybe she would help you about your recent breakup), lol.




During our recent late lunch gathering hosted by Bayer Philippines, ‘Ask Mara’ offers key information and resources on reproductive health in the convenience of their smartphone via the Facebook Messenger app. This will give women access to credible and reliable information anytime, anywhere without having to worry about possible stigma.

Mr. Junil Kim, Country Division Head of Bayer Pharmaceuticals
Mr. Junil Kim, Country Division Head of Bayer Pharmaceuticals
“We recognize the power and reach of the digital platform to educate Filipinos about reproductive health and contraception. As we have been actively supporting various awareness and advocacy programs in the Philippines, this is another important channel to spread the right information on the said topic.” said Junil Kim, Country Division Head of Bayer Pharmaceuticals.

‘Ask Mara’ chatbot provides information to women on the different contraceptive options available, both natural and modern methods. Mara shares the usage, pros, and cons of contraceptive pills, condoms, and intrauterine devices among others. She also responds to frequently asked questions and includes a pill reminder feature to help those who are just getting started. 




Dr. Marie Michelle Dado, MD Fellow of the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society
Dr. Marie Michelle Dado, MD Fellow of the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society

“We generally feel comfortable asking our best friends on sensitive topics. Ask Mara essentially is providing a pseudo one-on-one engagement online. We need to provide this type of private setting to Filipinos so women will be encouraged to ask questions and get the right answers pertaining to contraception and reproductive health. This will also prompt them to consult us physicians if they have more pressing questions,” said Marie Michelle Dado, MD, Fellow of the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society.




Is Mara sexist AI bot?

Reproductive health and contraception are still a sensitive topic for many Filipinos, because there are only occasionally conversation about it – not as many as how frequent people talks about Kim Kardashians newest gifts from her Kanye, or how many times in a day we refresh our social media pages, just to get latest updates from the Baretto siblings’ feud.

The point is, it is not openly talked and discussed about, hence many still find it off or feel sensitive.
Additionally, if you noticed many reproductive health campaigns around us, most of them give focuses on women’s reproductive health and contraceptives, and only a few instances mentioned about men’s side. Don’t you think this is sexist?

The responsibility of reproductive health and contraception are for all gender, for all ages, and not just for women. We should give extra emphasis for men, and not only educating our women.
We should not let us women to carry additional burden and responsibility, that should be carried-out equally with men.

Furthermore, giving less emphasis to men’s reproductive health and contraception are making men feel they are ‘not obligated enough’ to carry this responsibility of education. By letting only the women knows about these topics, we are excluding our men hence, they felt outcast, confused, and just pass the responsibility (or burden) to women, which I personally feel not fair.

If we aim for equal rights, then bring this discussion for all genders, too.




I used this contraceptive pill YAZ, manufactured by BAYER Pharmaceuticals
I used this contraceptive pill YAZ last year which my doctor recommended to me. And after few months of taking it. I admit that this gives me some few discomforts but helpfully prevents pregnancy, then I stopped after 3-months of use. Now that my partner took had a vasectomy (the most effective birth control for men) then I have no reason to take these pills and bear the responsibility of managing birth control. 

If you want to know more about this contraceptive pill, or even my partner's vasectomy, email me and let's talk.




Is Mara effective?

Her accessibility to everyone especially with mobile phone would makes her effective communicator to disseminate accurate information about reproductive health and contraceptive however as a keen observer, this AI bot needs more enhancement, and pushing more boundaries if they want this a total success. 

Bayer Pharmaceuticals had launched the similar AI bot in Malaysia called ‘Ask Maya’ that targeting the Malaysians (women), and other that geographical difference, Mara and Maya are like clones – minimal difference. 

I recommend that they make this AI bot more interactive – for instance, making the language available in Filipino first, secondary in English because let’s admit – it is best to make it ‘more feel local’. If they can make it converse in other local dialects like Cebuano, or Ilocano they it will be a breakthrough.

After all, when you want to talk about sensitive and important topics with your friend, you never speak in foreign language, right?

To start chatting, just message Ask Mara on the Facebook Messenger app or visit: https://www.facebook.com/AskMaraPH/

****

Or if you are keen to chat with me, feel free to email me at forurbanwomen@gmail.com

I give no BS advice though.



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42 comments :

  1. This platform is a positive for women who may not wish to speak with a person about reproductive issues. I think this would serve well in the U.S.

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  2. I like the idea of this. Of course, what is really needed is a more open discussion about women's reproductive health but that is an entire culture shift that may or may not happen. In the meantime, this could help a lot of women who don't feel comfortable talking openly about it.

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    1. This is a good help too for all gender, not only for women.

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  3. I can see how Mara can help women in the country learn more about contraception even thought the country isn't the most conducive to open conversation.

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    1. I agree. It sad to admit that Philippines is one of those who are not fully open for this kind of open discussion... but have time to mind someone else business :D

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  4. This is a great idea, the big tech companies earn billions in income and pay tiny amounts in taxes, I think they should have to spend x% of their revenue on socially responsible products like this, awesome post - very infomative! :-)

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  5. This sounds great! Overpopulation is definitely a problem and women need easy access to contraceptives.

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    Replies
    1. easy access and affordability coz many people that contributes over population are poor people.

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  6. I think this is a good thing, but obviously its reach is going to be limited to the tech savvy or at least the more modern individuals. With proper implementation, young teens (or even adults) can talk to MARA about things that concern them about contraception. Whatever question they have that they cannot ask their parents, teachers or friends, they can ask MARA.

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    1. I agree, nowadays your adults are more confident to talk to someone online. Anyway, an AI bot won't judge them.

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  7. Really interesting. Thanks for sharing, and inspiring.

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  8. Wow, technology is changing. A tech bot to help with this sounds really cool!

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  9. This is so necessary in the Philippines! I hope it reaches many women out there so they can be informed and educate themselves on their options.

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    1. And hope they wont feel shy to chat with this AI about their concerns in reproductive health.

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  10. We are learning AI now. It really helps our daily lives. Although it's a bit scary that it might take the world!

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  11. That's great to have, especially in a conservative and catholic country where birth control and sex are still seen as hot button issues. it gives women privacy to discuss sexual issues.

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    1. Catholic Church are just afraid that they are losing influence.

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  12. i think this would be good, as a woman i am very shy talking about this especially in the Philippines.

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  13. This is a big step forward towards educating women about birth control, sexuality and other issues pertaining to women and reproductive health. My only concern though is that not everyone has access to technology and the internet, especially those living in far flung areas. I wish there would be a follow through campaign - like volunteers going to those areas to educate the community.

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    1. I heard we have those volunteers, funded both private NGOs and government, but not enough. Maybe it needs to influence more volunteers to it.

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  14. The way to control our overgrowing population is one of the top priorities for many countries. Such initiatives as these to educate will go a long way

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  15. Yyyaaayyyy! I love Bayer and the efforts they make in the reproductive health and contraception use circle. Ask Mara will be very good for all of us.

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    Replies
    1. That's good and I'm glad you are also concern about reproductive health.

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  16. I think this is a great idea, especially for those who feel uneasy talking to their doctor about these things

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    Replies
    1. Doctor's fee are skyrocketing, and this AI is free.

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  17. Wow! I did not know we have something like this here in the Philippines but this is something that we really need.

    I would love to use this service. It is wonderful to know that information on reproductive health can now be easily accessible through Ask Mara.

    Congratulations to the people behind this project. It is an awesome idea.

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  18. This is an amazing idea! I think it would be super helpful

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  19. This sounds a lot like Siri on the iPhone or Google's Alexa. They are basically bots that answer all types of questions, just like you would ask Google or Bing questions, except they speak to you. Very cool gadgets. I personally have a Google Alexa box and I ask her the weather every morning. It's actually very convenient.

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    Replies
    1. I got my Alexa too, and she is like my AI assistant at home.

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  20. I didn't know about this until reading our post. This sounds like it would be helpful to learn this kind of stuff through this method!

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  21. I think Mara would come handy globally, quite frankly. Inadequate reproductive healthcare remains a global issue.

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