Positive Deviant: Sohrab Amiri
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
My story begins with my parents fleeing to Germany as political refugees. Racism left me ostracized at a young age, its influence also distancing me from my family in Iran. I grappled with the question, am I the one who is walled in, or them? Why do they seem complete, while I feel broken in my new home attempting to understand if I am a German or Persian, and what social class I belong to? These questions related to social stigma have been a part of me ever since I can remember. And they have, in part, led me to start my latest venture, Cumasu.
More definitively put, it is social justice fueling me to bring to fruition Cumasu, which seeks to address the lack of access to healthcare faced by marginalized communities in developing nations. Specific challenges include, lack of privacy, social instability, and a general social stigma governing sexual behavior. We seek to create a new normal in which there is easy access to clinics for sexual health related diagnoses and support, maintaining patient dignity in the process.
Cumasu offers a mobile platform in which users make appointments with clinics via SMS (for greater discretion), while also leveraging this technology to help clinic partners be more data-driven in their approach to care for and education of, HIV/AIDS and STIs. Currently, we envision piloting our product in Nairobi, Kenya in early 2018.
However, we know that technology alone will not eradicate sexual social stigmas which, for example, make women and LGBTQ communities some of the most vulnerable groups. Facilitating conversations around this topic are crucial to the success of our mission to challenge these stigmas and reduce the suffering of such marginalized communities.
That is why I believe firmly in working on-the-ground, spending plenty of time walking with the people and understanding their problems through their eyes. As entrepreneurs, we need to understand that our ideas and solutions will be subject to change, that we must not be so wedded to our ideas as to not be able to evolve them when conditions call for it. To become a true changemaker, one must have such elastic persistency, borne from a committed immersion with one’s clients and users. In short, we need to be more passionate about the challenge, why we are doing what we are doing, rather than the solution.
And why do I see myself fit to pursue my venture? I believe I can use entrepreneurship as a tool to battle the oppression of marginalized communities. I am further fueled by the passionate belief that my upbringing by my parents has given me the fire I need to pursue this venture and reform systems of oppression into systems of empowerment and inclusion.
In many ways, entrepreneurs will face similar problems with their ventures and in their personal lives. We may even live in the same context, with the same resources available to us, but we can all adopt a different behavior within our conditions in order to make them better. Instead of accepting the problems in our lives and defining ourselves according to them, I ask that we consider the value of turning problems into opportunities in order to transform them into something positive and meaningful.
I hope such a mindset, and my venture, will ultimately play a role in the proliferation of positive deviant behavior on a global scale.