In 2017 two female doctors decided that more needs to be done in the Healthcare industry of Pakistan and founded the community healthcare initiative “Sehat Kahani”. Dr. Iffar Zafar and Dr. Sara Khurram are smart, passionate and inspiring individuals who captured us with their incredible story. This is a story from two individuals who are juggling being a mother, a student, a doctor and a co-founder. An incredible journey that should inspire others to work harder, care more about our society and especially support our fellow women entrepreneurs.
Picture above: Dr Iffat Zafar Aga
Picture above: Dr Sara Saeed Khurram
“Sehat Kahani” use telemedicine to provide healthcare services to the rural communities in Pakistan. By equipping nurses in clinics with computers and linking them up with doctors, patients are able to get real-time access to doctors.
So, what inspired you to start Sehat Kahani?
We’re both medical doctors, and to be a female medical doctor in Pakistan is considered very prestigious and noble. Pakistan is culturally conservative, so women usually take up “safer” professions like teachers or doctors. Pakistan produces approximately 150,000 doctors a year and out of this number, 63% are female.
However, only 23% of women who graduate from medical school eventually join the workforce and become doctors. There are two reasons for this – first, the women are prohibited by their families from having a career and second, they get married and have kids. We call this the doctor bride phenomenon.
At the same time, the 40% of the country’s poorest communities live in the rural areas, and 50% of them have no access to healthcare.
So the concept of Sehat Kahani was to implement a platform for women doctors who have left the profession to reconnect with the workforce, and to provide healthcare services to the in-need low income population using telemedicine.
What are some of the challenges you faced in this journey?
In Pakistan, talking to someone via video call is still not widely accepted. Initially, it was difficult to go to communities and get them to go online. However, through on-ground mobilization, we were able to mitigate that. Internet access still remains a severe challenge for most of the rural poor. While there have been rapid improvements, we hope for internet penetration to increase over the next few years.
Our company has 11 full-time staff and 4 of the top positions are held by women. When we go for meetings, we often get asked “who’s the male behind you?” – people tend to think that only men can head companies, but we have proved them wrong.
Given the extremely demanding nature of your work, how do the both of you achieve work-life balance?
We each have one daughter. As good friends, we’re able to support each other, arrange playdates for our daughters and coordinate childcare duties.
We are also very fortunate to have strong support in the form of family and friends. We also try to remain in the office only from 9am to 5pm. We go home on time and give our children the time they need.
At the end of the day, it helps that we know that there are days we need to be mothers more than CEOs, and we just slip in and out of all different roles where needed.
How do you spend your weekends?
We spend a part of it studying, as we’re both working towards attaining our Masters degrees. Apart from that, most of our time is spent with our families. We also hang out quite a bit with other entrepreneurs. When you are in a country where entrepreneurship is nascent, your network of friends tends to be entrepreneurs too, and it’s great because you have a support system made up of like-minded individuals
What superpower do you wish you had?
We both love to travel, so the ability to fly would be great!
As we mentioned already it was such a delight to meet Dr. Iffat Zafar and Dr. Sara Khurram, to Miss Kaya these ladies are already Super Women… and we wish Sehat Kahani the very best success.
To find out more about Sehat Kahani, do visit sehatkahani.com