There are some women that gasp at the sheer joy of pregnancy while others worry about the 9 month long ordeal. In both cases though, carrying a child is still a beautiful feeling. However, the question may arise as to how many women living in rural areas of Bangladesh get to experience this heart-warming feeling without having to worry about their health? Close to none, perhaps. To address this problem, Grameen Intel Social Business Limited has manufactured a little something for the mothers of Bangladesh in the form of a bangle.

Pavel Hoq,
COO,Grameen Intel Social Business Limited
Photograph by Sakib Muhtasim

Meet Coel; from a distance, all you see is a beautiful bangle, dazzling with its Bengali motif. But Coel isn’t all beauty; she is substance too.

Developed by Grameen Intel Social Business Limited (GISB), Coel is a maternity wellness bangle, which was developed through collaboration between Intel Capital and Grameen Trust. What’s so special about the bangle? Apart from being water resistant, the durable plastic bangle comes with a customised curved battery to fit into the frame that lasts for the entire pregnancy period until transferred to a new pregnant mother.

Coel is not your regular jewellery- once it’s been configured to your last menstrual period and you put it on, a woman’s amiable voice greets you and you feel like you have a friend beside you at all times.

In a country where many expecting mothers fail to receive antenatal care, Coel technology comes as a blessing.
For to-be-mothers especially in rural areas, seeking professional prenatal care is the last things on their minds. That’s where Coel comes to the rescue. Equipped with about 80 pregnancy related preprogrammed wellness messages, it provides some sense of respite to mothers. “Keeping expecting mothers in mind, the awareness generating content has been developed in alliance with Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action(MAMA),” addresses Pavel Hoq, the COO of Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd.

“However Coel is not to be regarded as a prescription neither a health-issue specific device, as the goal of these bangles is to solely raise awareness among the specific target market dwelling in the rural areas of the country,” clarifies Pavel. “Based on the knowledge gained from the content, the user would be able to address the issue by consulting the designated healthcare provider within the region”, informs Pavel.

Coel stands for carbon monoxide exposure limiter. How does it work? If the bangle detects harmful odourless gases around the mother, the red LED light on the device will flash and beep and the pre-recorded voice message will notify the wearer to move to a safer area. “Carbon monoxide present in the air is easily inhalable due to its colourless and odourless property and is extremely hazardous for both the mother and the unborn baby,”he explains.

Women living in rural areas are unfortunately exposed to these gases while cooking, burning wood or being near cow dung. “In a poorly ventilated kitchen, Coel bangle will inform the user to step aside from her task and allow increased ventilation in the area until the device gives out a green signal of safety – all these measures will be a mere temporary disruption,” Pavel breaks it down.

Coel initially went through a test run in the Uttar Pradesh region of India. Pavel goes on to say “One of the biggest concerns was the debate of whether a technology like Coel will be accepted by the relatively conservative demography; the rural women population of South Asia.”

In lieu of that, topics of pregnancy and childbirth are compartmentalised to hushed conversations behind closed doors. “But we were pleasantly surprised to have encountered no major obstacles during the trial period and overall received a very positive feedback”, reflected the COO.
Coel bangles are estimated to be priced of at 12 USD to 15 USD (Tk800-1200). However, Grameen Intel is still in the process of evaluating its affordability among the target demography. “Our target has always been to keep the price at a very affordable range, but we have the bindings towards sustainability as there is a cost involved in manufacturing this sleek device,” reveals Pavel.

“Based on our preliminary research, Tk800-1200 for a specialised bangle seems justifiable because of the features and benefits it offers.” The company is set to expand Coel into other regions in the South Asia, after the successful debut in the local scene. “Wherever we expand this technology, Grameen Intel’s primary interest would be to keep the pricing within the standard 15 dollar range.”

Grameen Intel has scheduled to launch Coel by the end of the fourth quarter of this year. “We aim to partner with organisations with existing infrastructure and those that have health access in the rural areas for better deployment of the product,” says a hopeful Pavel.

He also emphasises that Grameen Intel will not be responsible for the distribution network. “Our specialty lies in only manufacturing these bangles.” He also predicts that the partners of Coel will be adding other value added services to the device which in turn will help expecting mothers to avail discounts, receive priority access to healthcare facilities and reduce waiting time among other facilities. “The more beneficial to mothers, the more awareness it will create. We are hoping that women not only wear the bangle but take another step forward and avail the services which come along with it,” Pavel has his fingers crossed.

Some say that we are as big as our dreams. With that thought in mind, Pavel hopes to offer a similar service to the female populace serving in the garment sector. However, Coel’s current features may not be best suited for them. “The carbon monoxide detection may not be very effective for the garment workers neither for women that live in slums. Therefore we are in active discussion with organisations where we can eliminate the toxic gas sensor but still have the maternal awareness component within the product to cater to these two demographics particularly,” On that note, he wraps up.

Featured Photograph by Debashish Bhattacharjee Grameen Intel social Business Ltd

A French teacher by day, Samira Shakur is a full time pescetarian and a struggling art enthusiast who loves travelling