THE INNOVATIVE EDGE
FEMTECH TO DRIVE IMPACTFUL CHANGE
Dharini Speldewinde sheds light on how innovative solutions in femtech can be a game changer for women’s empowerment
The term femtech refers to any technology-powered products or services that are designed to uplift women’s health. Yet in reality, femtech is the missing piece of a millennia-old puzzle to unchain women from the unspoken challenges associated with varying stages of their reproductive life, and empower them to be in control of their health and wellbeing.
Working in femtech for almost seven years, Consumer and Product Innovation Lead at Femography by MAS Dharini Speldewinde says that femtech is a very important category given the fact that it deals with 50 percent of the global population.
She explains: “Women need to gain access to products, services, devices, software and diagnostics to help them through varying stages of their reproductive life. This in turn will have a positive impact not only on their lives but also on society and the economy as a whole.”
Speldewinde elaborates: “All innovation in the femtech space will have a positive impact on women and girls as it will help with overcoming, managing or improving certain pain points they may be experiencing due to a physical or mental reproductive health condition.”
The growth potential for femtech looks positive and the industry is expected to be worth US$ 59 billion by end 2023 and close to 100 billion dollars by 2030. Yet, awareness levels on femtech remain low globally with most aspects of women’s health such as menstruation and menopause still considered taboo topics in society.
She outlines a key industry segment, which is the menopause femtech market, that often goes unnoticed: “It is still small since it’s considered a taboo topic and makes up around 7-8 percent of the entire femtech market.”
Speldewinde adds: “This percentage includes varying menopause-related products ranging from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and supplements to lifestyle-related solutions, which is where MAS plays a role. By 2025, a billion women around the globe will be experiencing menopause and this calls for more solutions to help this category of women.”
Sri Lanka has a few companies working on femtech solutions and engaging in femtech practices. However, she sees a lot of room for improvement and says: “I believe more funding and investment are needed to encourage more startups, and corporates that are already working in this space should continue doing their work and help come up with more innovations too.”
Speldewinde notes: “We need more conversations with all genders on the femtech space to make femtech-related taboo a thing of the past. And this in turn will help the innovation process.”
She says: “Corporates need to be part of the conversation, and invest in women’s health and wellbeing in various ways by starting with their own organisations. It could be little things such as providing menstrual pain-related leave, having lactation rooms in the office or simply educating employees on femtech-related areas.”
Speldewinde remains optimistic about the future for femtech and notes: “From an apparel point of view, we now see non-femtech-related brands seeing the need for femtech solutions to be incorporated into their product lines. This is very refreshing because today’s consumer wants function over fashion. Additionally, little by little, taboos are being broken and that is also a positive sign for the growth of this space.”
She encourages those who don’t know about the femtech space and the subcategories associated with it, to read up. And says: “In the long run, you will definitely be able to help someone along the way through your knowledge.”
– Compiled by Ruwandi Perera
FROM MENARCHE TO MENOPAUSE
Femography is the femtech arm of MAS that designs and manufactures functional apparel solutions for women’s reproductive health needs. “MAS has been working in this space since 2013, and we provide solutions for the entire reproductive lifecycle from menarche to menopause, and everything in between,” says Speldewinde.
The team at Femography has developed a range of patented and patent-pending solutions such as absorbent underwear, activewear, sleepwear and period pain relief bands for menstrual and urinary incontinence; absorbent nursing pads and adaptable maternity wear for pregnancy and postpartum; and Anti Flush technology which focusses on hot flushes and night sweats during menopause. In the future, Femography will be looking to expand its work into breast health.
Speldewinde explains that Femography aims to enable women to “go about their daily activities with little or no hindrance due to pain points arising throughout their reproductive cycle with the help of its functional apparel solutions.” She recounts a customer testimony for Femography’s menopause hot flushes clothing range: “She wrote to us saying after years of only wearing black clothes and having to sleep on towels, she no longer has to do so and feels normal again.”
Raising awareness on women’s health and the need for femtech solutions is key. In addition to shedding light on taboo topics through MAS’ social media handles, Femography has also partnered with The Arka Initiative and Selyn, to educate communities through workshops and dialogue across the country.
“Femtech is a very important category given the fact that it deals with 50 percent of the global population”
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