Entrepreneurs who can brainstorm and execute actionable poverty solutions in the developing world are a rare but important facet of today’s business world. That is why The Fletcher School created the D-Prize, a research challenge open to all Fletcher students, alumni, and Tufts undergraduates. The program gives students and alumni the opportunity to put their development plans into practice through a summer internship experience, which often leads to full-time entrepreneurial experiences after graduation.
In April 2019, Farah Momen (F ’20) and Giulia Bova were awarded $10,000 for their creation of The Now Exchange, a nonprofit that aims to improve healthcare for Bangladeshi women working in the garment industry. Momen and Bova, who have been friends since they attended McGill University together, both have educational backgrounds in international development and are deeply interested in the interplay between women’s rights, the market, and consumerism. The inspiration behind The Now Exchange (TNE) began with Momen’s uncle, who owned a garment factory in Bangladesh known, not for the oft-heard tragic reasons such as abuse of workers or structural collapse, but for its generosity. As her uncle’s factory continued to flourish, he began donating his personal funds to his community, Momen said.
Momen, a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy student, is determined to maintain her uncle’s legacy. Momen, along with her friend and colleague Giulia Bova, are planning to provide women’s health services—starting with free, injectable contraceptives—to women working in Bangladesh’s garment factories by using and improving the already-existing in-factory clinics. Eventually, Momen hopes The Now Exchange can provide a variety of health services to women across the industry. But her vision is that these services will be funded by the international retailers who sell clothes made in Bangladesh’s extensive, and sometimes deadly, garment industry.
After further investigation on the state of women’s health in Bangladesh, Momen and Bova discovered that the country’s garment region has a higher need for contraceptives in comparison to its national need. Their theory is that by offering improved health services to these clinics for free, they can eliminate the challenges women face in accessing quality healthcare. In addition to this, Momen and Bova are looking for an expansion in menstrual hygiene and domestic violence workshops.
This summer, Momen and Bova are traveling to Bangladesh to fill open staff positions, which include The Now Exchange’s business development director and health trainers. Together they will work with clinic staff in Bangladesh to teach healthcare workers in the factory clinics to administer under-the-skin contraceptives and how to address broader issues of women’s health. Next on their agenda is to find a pilot factory, purchase the contraceptives to use in the clinic, and work out the metrics they will use to measure impact.
Momen has no plans of slowing down The Now Exchange’s impact. She states that by the Spring of 2020, her and Bova hope to add two or three more factories to their program, each with approximately 300 workers. Doing so would cause a ripple-effect, which in-turn will significantly bolster the entire Bangladeshi health system.