Tobacco Control and Smoking Cessation in rural women of Pakistan

Tobacco Control and Smoking Cessation in rural women of Pakistan

PakistanUnited States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Our program is to educate rural women of Pakistan regarding the harmful effects of tobacco usage and smoking, through demonstrative and captivating theatre plays/ re-enactments, which would not only help them understand easily (due to high illiteracy levels), but also aid in cessation of this disease burden.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Looking at our country, and the general trends prevailing in our society, smoking has seen an alarming rise. More and more people take up smoking every day, without realizing the harmful effects it poses to their health, or not paying enough ‘attention’ to those harmful effects. According to a survey, more pregnant women are using tobacco and 92% of women said that smoking was allowed in their home, and 50% said they and their young children were frequently or always exposed to tobacco smoke indoors. Among India’s immediate neighbors, only Pakistan figures in this infamous list of worst in the world when it comes to women smokers.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

In a unique concept and following insights from the rural areas – we aim to develop demonstrative enactments/ theater street plays, as a way of providing counseling and education to rural women and highlighting effects of smoking on women health. In most rural areas, such plays and reenactments are successful in delivering the message to the audience, as opposed to literature (due to high levels of illiteracy).
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The model is a simple training, counseling and awareness program; I will share two major examples below; APWA has a vast network of Lady Health Workers (LHWs), these LHWs work with the local communities by paying door to door visits and counseling women on health related problems. The first step was to train these workers on WHO’s M-POWER model for smoking cessation and certify them as smoking cessation counselors. Once the training had taken place, the LHWs were given adequate materials to discuss with the women in these communities. Our model has introduced smoking cessation counseling in their daily curriculum of health and now it is a part of the basic health topics that these LHWs discuss with the communities. This started a debate around a new health topic and kicked off the discussions in the homes. As many as 95% of the total women population visited were not specifically aware of the hazards smoking poses to health, they were just aware of the fact that ‘it is bad’. The second innovative way to reach out to communities were through a series of street theatre workshops where a leading theatre group working for women activism partnered with APWA to put together a stage play. This play captured two different stories in low income households where individuals suffer from smoking and tobacco abuse. The play was moving and staged in the communities so women can easily attend the plays as well as learn from looking at the enactment as opposed to reading (since illiteracy levels are quite high).

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are not many people working with women groups on smoking cessation primarily. A number of other groups work on smoking cessation including the National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC, a public office) and National Alliance for Tobacco Control (NATC, a private NGO) but with different aims, once focusing on addressing overall smoking problem in the country from a Federal level and one working on training healthcare professionals in smoking cessation and counseling. The latter has been our training partner in this program. There are no obvious challenges any of the above could pose to the program as this is the first ever time such a program has been implemented.

Founding Story

I will capture a heart moving moment from the Central Prison for Women and Juvenile Jail where APWA held a session with the women inmates. After the awareness session was held, women were shocked by the dangerous effects of smoking and explained how difficult it is for them to get their hands on cigarettes whilst in prison. Many women got up one by one and promised to quit, save money and send it to their families.
About You
About You
First Name


Tell us about yourself/your team.

The team comprises of a few individuals from the Public Affairs wing of Pfizer Pakistan Limited, as well as the core team of the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA), who want to make a difference by working towards eradication of tobacco and smoking from Pakistan.

What makes you an intrapreneur? What are the skills, capabilities, and personality traits that make you an intrapreneur?

Diverse team, with passion to dedicate efforts towards alleviating tobacco burden from Pakistan.

About Your Organization
Company Country

, NY

Primary country where this project is creating social impact

, S

Additional countries or regions

Health Care

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)

The Solution: Why is this solution innovative for your company and industry?

The solution is innovative as previous ways have been focused on professionals and not communities. The communities need to be aware of the hazards of smoking and since most of them are illiterate, demonstrative ways are only solution. A women’s social welfare organization, such as the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA), with the technical expertise of National Alliance for Tobacco Control (NATC), is a unique combination that will aid in developing sustainable solutions.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Reached out to 40,000 women, create awareness about the consequences of tobacco consumption and motivate them to quit this addiction, through door-to-door visits, as well as through the theater plays.

What is your projected impact over the next 1 to 3 years?

Significantly high awareness levels for smoking hazards among low income communities and households in various parts of Karachi city, and other cities in Pakistan. This awareness will be able to drive ‘quit smoking rates’ as well as having a positive impact on the overall health of the communities.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Social pressure, cultural norms, and peer pressure, are some elements that can hinder this project. The target audience indulges in various forms of smoking due to stress and pressure, mainly building on from low-standards of living, increasing costs due to economic recession, unemployment, and increasing number of family members and those women who are not smokers but are susceptible to smoking due to the environment and surroundings.

What is the benefit or value you're creating for your business?

Pfizer focuses on building partnerships to address health related issues. With Pfizer Foundation’s involvement in this project, which is carried out by an NGO working for women’s welfare, Pfizer is seen as a responsible corporate entity committed to addressing key public health issues in the country. It also builds the company’s image in a positive light.

How are you leveraging internal resources (funds, time, knowledge, etc.) to support this initiative?

We are committed to the cause and have invested a great deal of time in the project and have encouraged our partners to utilize internal resources. With Pfizer’s core team, having the experience of handling such a project in the past, the knowledge and learning was transferred to APWA. The smoking cessation training certification developed with the help of NATC was used for the training of LHWs in APWA. APWA also utilized internal auditorium, and office spaces for meetings etc.

Expand on your answer, explaining the long-term funding and support plan.

APWA will continue to monitor and reach out to women with the objective of training and counseling the communities. The play has been developed and can be replicated with minimum funding to more communities. Similarly, the training provided to APWA LHWs can be refreshed. All these factors provide sustainability to the program. There is no long-term funding plan, however, we may be able to allocate some funds for activities in future.

Tell us about your partnerships across your company and externally that are key to your project's success.

This idea mainly involves three organizations – Pfizer Foundation, APWA, and the National Alliance for Tobacco Control (NATC). APWA is responsible for the execution of the plays, whereas NATC is responsible for providing training and expertise to the workers of APWA.

What internal support have you gotten for your project? What kind of push-back have you received?

The current leg of the project has been funded by the global Pfizer Foundation, and Pfizer Inc, and so far the project has continued to meet its objectives.