Case Study: #thevword (yes, we mean vagina)

“In my country, women’s reproductive health is taboo,” says  Johannesburg-based social media influencer Xoli Gcabashe. “The archaic rules of menstrual etiquette require women to hide their periods by carrying their hygiene products in secret, brushing off their pain and never discussing their “private” concerns in public. And while many girls are not taught about menstruation at school, they are taught that their femininity is something to be ashamed of and therefore to be suppressed.” 

Gcabashe, alongside PSI’s VIYA, is at the forefront of changing the narrative. 

PSI launched VIYA, its first global sexual wellness lifestyle brand – igniting a movement under #TheVWord aimed at disrupting the narrative around women’s healthcare and supporting women to make and own their health choices throughout their lifecycle. Harnessing technology including artificial intelligence, e-commerce and telemedicine, VIYA plans to deliver sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information, products and services across the stages of their lives – from menstruation to menopause – to women across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). 

“VIYA breaks stigma around SRHR and helps women to be comfortable to voice their concerns,” says Gcabashe. “I’m proud to be a part of such an amazing initiative because it invites freedom to speak about such topics…without feeling afraid.” 

Since its inception, PSI has understood what consumers want – easy access to healthcare products and services that allow them to live healthier lives and plan the families they desire. We’ve worked relentlessly to deliver on that commitment. Much of this work has focused on advancing self-care by increasing multi-channel access to contraceptives, self-care, including condoms, oral contraceptive pills, emergency contraception and medical abortion. Creating and developing these markets required stepping in to supply products, building awareness by creating compelling brands and providing information. And while much of this work was achieved with the support of donors, PSI, over the last few years, has transitioned a large portfolio reaching over 5M users each year to be self-sustaining, maintaining access to leading brands in global markets. Maintaining this self-sustaining portfolio of self-care contraceptive products requires creating a platform that responds to our consumers evolving needs and wants. 

Today, this means providing VIYA, an integrated Femtech solution for women’s end-to-end reproductive needs built from and responsive to what women and girls say they want and need.  

“VIYA has created a platform that makes women feel safe to share and gain access to the correct sexual and reproductive (SRH) health information,” says Lindiwe Rasekoala, a VIYA content creator and sex educator. “The fact that VIYA health is pushing the boundaries and have made me a part of it, makes me feel like we’re onto something, and we can change the world. It’s great to be a part of it.” 

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