Fellow Follow-up: ayzh’s Zubaida Bai

2014 BHSI Fellow Zubaida Bai realized firsthand the importance of maternal health when she contracted an infection giving birth to her own son in a well-equipped hospital in India.  Recognizing that her experience was not uncommon—especially for impoverished women—she and her husband started ayzh, an organization that provides easy-to-use, sterile birth kits to hospitals in developing nations.  In recent months, with the designation of a “safe birth partner” by social good brand TOMS, Zubaida Baiayzh’s potential impact on maternal health has only increased. In an e-mail conversation, Bai shared more about ayzh’s new partnership and her experiences at CIW.

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What was the inspiration for starting ayzh?

I think the inspiration for starting ayzh was basically that my husband and I had seen a lot of women struggle and not have independence. That was basically the inspiration: our own mothers and other women in our lives. We really wanted to do something for them.

The roots of ayzh, then, are in your experiences growing up in India, as well as the experiences of many of the women you saw around you.  Did the inspiration for the way ayzh addresses these problems—kits for births and other health needs—come from your education as an engineer?

I specialize in product development and design, so it definitely comes from there. But it also comes from a personal experience. I wanted to develop products and work with women. I ended up meeting a woman in India, who had used a sickle for delivering a baby—a grass-cutting sickle. I think that was the “aha” moment.

That ended up with this whole new discovery of maternal health.  I wanted to work in the women’s health space, but fell into the maternal health space by accident. .

What types of responses have you gotten from the women and organizations who have used these kits?

I think that everybody definitely thinks that our kits have played a crucial component in them being able to follow [safe procedures].

The way we measure impact is we say, every kit sold is two lives improved.  So if we’ve sold about 60,000 kits, then are impact is directly 120,000.  But we say, it’s not only the mother and the baby, it’s the entire family.  So if we want to do an indirect impact, we multiply that number by 4, assuming there’s a husband and another child.

What did you gain from Chicago Ideas Week 2014? 

Chicago Ideas Week was a great opportunity to network and meet a wide range of people working in social entrepreneurship and beyond. I am still in touch with many individuals I met at CIW and am looking forward to seeing what comes of these new relationships.

What’s upcoming for ayzh?

Most recently, we’ve been chosen as one of TOMS’ three Safe Birth Partners. Now, when you purchase a TOMS handbag, matched funds will go toward supporting the work ayzh does.

Q&As are edited for clarity and length. This piece was adapted, in part, from an interview originally published on August 28, 2014.


Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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