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This Melbourne start-up is translating sexual health for refugees

Bartlett has since invested more than $10,000 and countless hours to create the sexual and maternal health start-up Shifra, a platform that guides women through accessing Australia’s healthcare.

“The whole point is that we have a lot of healthcare services in English, but for the non-English speaking, they just can’t access them. I just wanted anything in their languages,” Bartlett says.

“We worked out that this was something that was needed, wanted and feasible.”

The project, which has been built through a partnership with Melbourne digital agency Your Creative, formally launched last week with information in English and Arabic.

The translations have been done with Melbourne start-up Sylaba, founded by Sonia Sanchez Moreno.

“The work we’re talking about is sensitive content, it’s important we work with ‘what does a word mean in context?'” Bartlett says.

Three years on from her initial idea, the platform is up and running and has already had a few hundred users. It lets those from the Middle East, South America and Europe look up how Australia’s healthcare system works and have topics answered, such as what to do if you think you are pregnant or need information about contraception.

One-third have used its Arabic translations.

Shifra won the 2018 global Techfugees Global start-up competition, providing it with a partnership with the French Red Cross.

‘Prove our worth’

Shifra has largely been funded so far through free and discounted work of Melbourne entrepreneurs. This includes technical work by Lauren Crystal at Melbourne agency Your Creative, who also co-founded Trello competitor app Hassl.

We worked out that this was something that was needed, wanted and feasible.

Rebeccah Bartlett

Bartlett’s next step is to “prove our worth” to governments and councils to build revenue and expand the team to include women from migrant communities.

“At the moment what I’m looking for is graphic designers who are from migrant and refugee backgrounds. If there are women out there who have graphic design or illustrative skills, I really want them to get that foot in the door,” she says.

“My hope is that we’ll be able to get funding for a full-time CEO – ideally it would be someone from a health, migrant background.”

The start-up is also looking to translate its services to Dari in the coming months so Afghani users can access it.

Shifra has partnered with Monash University, with Bartlett working on growing Shifra as part of her PhD thesis in the school of public health.

The next step for the start-up is update councils and governments on the potential of the business in the hopes of future partnerships to promote reproductive health.

“The way I envisage it as being embedded in the government health services and council health services. The technology itself is not especially expensive — and if we can prove our worth, they are likely to see the value in the data we collect,” Bartlett says.

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