Associated Initiative:

Key Individual:
Ruth Nabembezi

Who can benefit from this study?
Civic Tech initiatives

Organisation responsible for case study:
Name: Ask Without Shame

Org. type: Non-Profit

Gender, Health

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Ask Without Shame: Supporting youth in sexual and reproductive emergencies anonymously via mobile

Post Status: Not applicable
Main Project Location: Kampala
Project country/countries: Uganda
Project dates: 2015 –
Last updated: 23 March 2022

Brief overview of the Case Study   

Ask Without Shame provides accurate emergency sexual health information to youth in Africa through mobile technology. This is done through an Android app, WhatsApp, calls, and SMS. Medical experts and counsellors are available 24/7 to assist users with the right information regarding sexuality at the fingertips of every youth from the age of 12 to 35 years without judgment or shame. Ask Without Shame aims to reach one million youth in East Africa by 2018, scale Ask Without shame in other African countries five years from then and eliminate sexual taboo Africa by 2050.

The challenge or problem

Speaking about sex in East Africa is considered a taboo and many youths have no or little access to the information they need. Especially girls, who have been abused or raped, have often no place to get support from because they fear the stigmatization from the family and society.
Ruth Nabembezi is the founder and CEO of Ask Without Shame. Ruth grew up in an orphanage home in Uganda. Her parents and sister passed away because of AIDS. When Ruth's sister developed severe skin rashes, the neighbours in her village believed that she was demon possessed and was taken to a witch doctor to be cleansed but she eventually died. Ever since, Ruth developed a strong frustration for people in Uganda not having the right information in regard to sexuality

The solution that was implemented

After Ruth joined the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) and started working on the problem of shame and stigma when it comes to sex education. The idea of a Sex-Education-App and text message service for information without shame emerged. So far Ask Without Shame serves thousands of youths globally.

What technology was used?



What results were achieved?

Ask Without Shame provides emergency sex education via mobile phone to Ugandan adolescent girls, young women, and other youth. They provide accurate information at the fingertips of every user via an android App, whatsapp, Hotline and SMS service. It is a free and anonymous service to answer questions regarding sexual matters without judgment or shame.

Medical experts are available 24/7 to assist youth with the right information, whatever emergency they are facing and whatever question they have regarding body changes, HIV, STDs, sex, contraception, and pregnancy.

Since the launch of Ask Without Shame in 2015, the multi-platform has responded to over 250 000 questions with over 5000 active users per month and have also trained over 900 peer educators for youths over 85000. extracted from Ask Without Shame)
Because our founder Ruth has been able to transform her own difficult past into a strength, she won the African Women Award in the category of “Young Change Maker”, she won the Queen’s Young Leader Award and was nominated for the BBC Outlook Inspirations Award. Ask WIthout Shame also won the appsafrica Innovation Awards in the category of “Social impact”. All this happened in 2016. (extracted from startup) . How the app has helped African youth

In Uganda, Embarrassment and fear prevent the majority of the adolescent girls from seeking information about sexual reproductive health and services. Just like any other sexuality topic. The subject of menstruation, however, is too often taboo, and has many negative cultural attitudes associated with it, including the idea that menstruating women and girls are ‘contaminated’, ‘dirty’ and ‘impure’. (extracted from close-the-gap)
This false information tremendously stigmatizes girls and causes psychological pain. Women and girls in rural settings and in particular girls in schools suffer the most from stigma. They often end up suffering in silence and believing that something is wrong with them while staying disempowered.

Lessons and recommendations

Ask Without Shame operates on a freemium model. Many users have shared information with them, which they have not shared with anyone else and do not want to share with others, even when referred to seek medical help. Ask Without Shame are currently setting up their own clinic, specialized in sexual health. Users requiring medical services come in and pay for the treatment or the coaching services. Ask Without Shame also makes referrals to partner clinics on a commission basis.
The biggest revenue will come in through the data captured by the organisation. In the near future Ask Without Shame will be able to generate reports on the specific needs of e.g. NGOs working in the field of sexual rights, on the exact challenges youth are facing to a topic in a specific area. Getting reliable data in developing countries on a taboo topic is almost impossible, while keeping the anonymity of its users, Ask Without Shame are able to exactly tell what challenges the youth are facing.

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