Growing up, Aline Joyce Berabose found it hard to acquire the right information regarding sexual and reproductive health, a challenge, she says, she shared with other girls. Today, it is still hard for girls and women, she asserts, to be able to ask questions about their bodies and the healthcare services available to them. For instance, the first time Berabose went to see a gynaecologist in 2019, she found out that all women who had queued at the place were pregnant. The receptionist asked her where her husband was even though she wasn’t married. “When I told her that I wanted to consult with the gynaecologist, to be tested and ask a few questions around contraception, she was like ‘are you pregnant or did you catch something?’ She asked a lot of questions,” Berabose says. “It’s normalised that gynaecologists, even though they are experts in women’s health, only deal with married and pregnant women. If a woman has an infection, it’s very hard for them to go see a professional doctor because there is so much stigma around single women going to see them.” ALSO READ: Sexual and reproductive health and rights are fundamental human rights In July 2022, Berabose and her male friend Samson Chibudu Nyiro visited a gynaecologist in Kigali, and the receptionist immediately assumed they were dating. Nevertheless, the assumption helped them comfortably ask questions about different contraceptive methods. “It was a free space for both of us to open up,” narrates Berabose, “but it is not an easy space to be when you are a woman, alone. In one community, we heard some gynaecologists ask for sexual favours from women by just being in the room alone with them. Basically, the whole healthcare system for women is very unsafe, corrupt and mostly judgmental.” A safe space After realising these issues, Berabose and Chibudu founded LUNA Africa, a local start-up that provides telehealth services (provision of healthcare remotely by means of telecommunications technology) for women. Berabose, currently the executive director of the start-up, says that they wanted to help women by establishing an avenue for them to seek information when it is needed without judgment, and easily consult gynaecologists. Women can ask anything and discuss topics that interest them, especially the ones that are stigmatised and often taboo in society, hence, empowering them. ALSO READ: What adolescents want addressed about access to sexual reproductive services She says they also help women find safe and trusted service providers and offer ways to find different products they need. LUNA Africa services embody every woman’s journey from puberty to menopause and through their telehealth platform, women can consult a range of verified gynaecologists and obstetricians remotely or book a check-up online for free. According to Berabose, through LUNA’s women-only community, a woman can also be who she wants to be and share their truest self with anonymous comments, and open conversations of interest guided by experts. “We currently have chatrooms about mothers, sexual health and pleasure, menstrual care and hygiene, free talk (chit chat) as well as relationships. Women can sign up for free and be able to join any of these chatrooms and engage in conversations. These chatrooms are managed by experts,” she says, adding that it only charges between Rwf2,000 and Rwf5,000 for members who want to consult doctors depending on the medium they have chosen; text, video, physical, etc. Berabose said that in case a woman orders a product or medicine through their platform, the company works with certified shops, pharmacies or healthcare practitioners to get and deliver it. Currently, the platform has around 137 members located in Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa. The team consists of eight members. ALSO READ: Regional activists convene to advance sexual and reproductive health rights Berabose says they plan to grow their community by increasing chatrooms and outreach, to help more people. She says that being an online-based platform is a little bit of a challenge for the start-up because many women do not have smartphones or access to the internet at all times. However, they are set to try out other avenues to reach them, including building a USSD-enabled platform. They are currently able to deliver products to members based in Rwanda, but they seek to scale up as they grow and secure more funds. They are also planning to localise conversations in their chatrooms, given that all are now being held in English. Berabose calls on healthcare providers to join the platform to help them serve more people.