Transparent Hands, a crowdfunding portal, aims to help Pakistan’s under-privileged pay for critical surgeries. The social enterprise uses its website, and platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to raise funds from a national and global audience. It strives to ensure a direct and transparent connection between patient and donor in various ways. The organisation verifies all its patients, and connects them to donors by sharing hospital and medical bills, and showing them pictures of patients before and after surgery. Rameeza Moin, founder of Transparent Hands, speaks to SheThePeople.TV about creating social impact with her organisation, and about her journey as a woman entrepreneur in Pakistan.
1. Can you tell us a bit more about your background and what inspired you to start Transparent Hands?
I’m an educationist and have worked in this field for around 15 years. I have worked at some prominent positions such as head of the department at various universities. I had no idea that I’d ever make an organization like Transparent Hands. It all started when working as a coordinator in a school, I went on a trip with our senior students. On the way to our destination, we stopped at a roadside restaurant (dhaba) for a tea break. The weather was pretty cool at that time. There came a kid who was selling boiled eggs and he insisted that we buy some. I looked at him and was shocked. That kid was too skinny and was hardly 5 or 6 years old. Not only did he have a runny rose, he was having difficulty breathing too. In such cold weather, he had ragged clothes on and torn sandals. His father was also working there, selling tea. After talking to them, I came to know that the little boy was suffering from congenital heart disease. I asked his father why he was letting his kid work in such condition. His reply was shocking. He said, ‘What else should I do? I have to fulfill my household needs and save enough so I can buy his medicine and pay for his operation.’ I couldn’t get that boy’s face out of my mind and it left me sleepless for many nights. That incident made me start my journey to build a platform through which poor people can undergo surgeries at good hospitals and they don’t have to wait for many years to get treatment.
2. You started the crowd funding platform in 2014 — what were your biggest challenges in getting the word out and raising money? What has the general response been?
It was not an easy journey at all. When I came up with an idea to build such platform with my brothers, everyone was against me. At first, it was challenging to build a unique crowdfunding platform; the next step was to spread awareness and collect funds. People used to take it as a profit-based organization, not welfare. As people these days are very concerned about transparency, they want to make sure that their money is being spent the right way. So, it was very difficult to convince them. But gradually, they started putting their trust in us and now they donate without any hesitation because of the level of transparency our organization has.
3. How do you manage running TH both in Pakistan and in the US?
My brother is managing the office there and I also visit at least twice a year to attend conferences and events. We are also trying our best to create awareness about our cause in the US on a large scale through digital marketing.
4. Have there been cases where you have not been able to raise the required money? What happens then?
Yes, it happened a few times. In that case, we use the money from our emergency funds account and get the surgery done because if we keep waiting for long, it can affect the patient’s health.
5. How do you think digital media can help empower women?
I believe digital media can empower women in many significant ways. They can start their business online and manage it while sitting at home. There are many other platforms such as blogging and social media where they can raise their voice and share ideas on many meaningful topics and engage with the public in large. Also, if they want to make a difference in someone’s life, then the digital platform is a perfect way to do that. They can get ample support that would help in fundraising to assist their causes.
6. Did you face any unique challenges as a woman entrepreneur?
Yes, many times. Right from the beginning, I heard people saying “how can a woman build an organization all by herself? She won’t succeed.” Many of my relatives advised me to continue working in the teaching field. But that didn’t stop me. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of poor people. I presented the idea in front of many people but got rejected every time. A few people even made fun of me, which made me extremely depressed. I kept thinking; so what if I’m a woman? Can’t women take the initiative to build an organization for the betterment of the community? What is wrong with this society? My parents and brothers fully supported me in this cause and encouraged me to carry on, which is why I was able to start this organization. I still get criticism, but the love and support of my family and all the people keep me going.
7. What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?
To all the women who want to do something in their lives but are hesitant to do so due to family and society pressure, it’s my sincere advice not to give up. Get help through digital media, raise your voice and try connecting with other women all over the world. It will motivate you and give ideas about how can you achieve your goals. It will be difficult in the beginning, but trust me, with proper support and strategies; you can be the leaders. If I can do this, you too can.
What is your vision of the future for Transparent Hands?
We want to reach more and more people all over in Pakistan who are in need of surgeries and are struggling due to bad health. Transparent Hands also aims to work in other social welfare projects in future, including education. Once successful in Pakistan, Transparent Hands intends to reach out to other developing countries.
Visit Transparent Hands website here to make a donation.
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