ayzh - Finalist for the Unilever Global Development Award

Key highlights
  • The organisation’s aim is to help mothers and babies survive and thrive around the time of childbirth
  • The organisation traina more than 5,000 health workers and engages over 300 partners
  • So far 600,000 women and newborn helped

Recognising they can achieve more together than by working alone, Barclays and GSK have created a self-sustaining model for communities in Zambia to make extra cash while boosting their general health.

Imagine giving birth without the help of sterile tools or a trained birth attendant. For nearly half of women giving birth in low-income countries, this is a reality.

Childbirth is risky for health and survival, and – while there have been substantial advances in maternal and newborn health over recent decades – more than five million mothers and children die ever year from infection-related causes. What’s worse is that this is entirely preventable.

Most of these deaths (80%) are concentrated in 30 countries (India claiming the most), where many health facilities lack essential sterile supplies and other resources needed to ensure clean and safe delivery conditions.

Clean Birth Kits help change that. Designed to reduce infection around the time of childbirth, they are associated with a 57% reduction in the death of newborns in India, and social enterprise ayzh has provided more than 600,000 women and newborns with these kits.

We use an innovative business model to enable, integrate and celebrate the health and wellbeing of women worldwide. As CEO, I’m committed to demonstrating how the SDGs can enable business to unlock economic, social and environmental gains for the world, paving the way for other business leaders and local entrepreneurs to make women’s health and other global goals local business.

- Zubaida Bai,
CEO and Founder Member ayzh

Increasing awareness of safe birth practices

The organisation’s aim is to help mothers and babies survive and thrive around the time of childbirth. So, along with the kits, the initiative provides education and training to women and caregivers to increase awareness of safe birth practices, with the firm training more than 5,000 health workers and engaging over 300 partners.

As well as raising awareness, this is improving global standards of care and increasing access to essential affordable commodities – with the kit costing Zubaida Baig just $3.

With 300,000 kits sold to date to more than 300 institutions in over 20 countries, clearly, people are willing to purchase the kits, transforming a field traditionally dominated by government subsidies and philanthropy.

Every kit sold directly impacts two lives (the mother and newborn baby), plus indirectly another three additional family members. So for the 600,000 women and newborn helped, it’s impacting another 900,000 family members.

There is no shortage of technology to help women and children survive – but, even the most effective technology cannot change lives if it is not available “at the right place, right time, right price” to those who need it most. This simple product can reach the world’s most vulnerable women, while advancing global goals.

By targeting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 (ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages), the company realised it simultaneously accelerates progress on SDG 5 (gender equality and women’s empowerment), SDG 9 (resilient health infrastructure in low resource settings), and SDG 17 (strengthened implementation through innovative partnerships).

Good news for society and business

The company doesn’t forget to incorporate social impact into its processes – from maintaining workforce/governance representation of at least 50 per cent women to employing local women as part of its manufacturing and distribution. Plus, its diverse, international team embraces the initiative, bringing their passion and expertise to help innovate across the fields of women’s health, business and technology.

When it comes to making profit and creating social impact, it seems rare in this space. ayzh is one of the only for-profit social enterprises working in the maternal and newborn health sector and was the first ‘social businesses’ in the private sector accepted into the ‘Every Woman, Every Child’ movement endorsed by the Office of the UN Secretary-General as producing a “high-impact commodity that can improve newborn health and survival”. 

Many women don’t get to experience dignity in childbirth. ayzh’s Clean Birth Kits are packaged in a pink biodegradable jute bag that mothers reuse as a purse. For some women, it is the first they have ever owned.