80% of maternal and infant deaths are preventable.
Dr. Karima Ladhani is the daughter of immigrants. Her parents moved from India to Uganda. In 1972, Ugandan president Idi Amin expelled Asian minorities. He gave 90 days to leave the country.
Karima’s mother made her way to Canada. Her father was in a refugee camp in Malta before immigrating to Canada. “We can’t take for granted the luxuries and privileges that we have,” she says. “There are people going through things. We have an opportunity and responsibility to help them. Others have helped us. We never know when we could be in that position in the future. It’s our responsibility to society to do our best to uplift all.”
When Karima was in fifteen years old, she volunteered to travel to Chitral Pakistan where she taught English and Science. “It was transformative. It was my first experience of seeing dignity in places we don’t often associate with dignity.”
From Finance to Free Falling
As an undergrad at the University of Waterloo, Karima studied finance. “I thought my goal was to work on the trading floor and to become a trader.” In her fourth year of school, Karima had a chance to work on the trading floor.
“Within two weeks, I realized I hated it. The world I was in was interesting. I always thought I could volunteer on the side. My work and these other interests don’t have to align. But I found it wasn’t sufficiently motivating for me. I decided I had to take drastic change.
“Before I graduated, I emailed every professor. I told them that I have no experience in science. But I have a hunch that there is something in this medical-health field that would be more satisfying for me. Here are the transferrable skills I could bring to the table.
“Only one professor replied to me. When all my friends went on to high-paying jobs, I went on to a minimum wage research assistant job in this small town of Waterloo.
“That’s how I learned about public health. I was exposed to this world of population-level health. Then, I was trying to figure out my next steps. I often call this my free-falling period. I took a risk. I had no idea where I was going to end up. Taking a risk is what allows you to grow. If I continued to know what ground I was going to step on the ground in front of me, I could only land where I expected – what was in the realm of my imagination. But, by free falling, I allowed myself to go beyond that.”
Deepening Her Expertise
It was during this period of exploration that Karima found her journal from her trip to Chitral, when she was 15 years old. “I noticed that I had so many stories in there that related to the health status of women and children.” She noted the disparity in health outcomes based on your place of birth.
Karima decided that, if she was going to pursue work in public health, she should further her education. She completed a master’s degree and PhD in Global Health & Population.
While at Harvard, Karima began to experiment with business models to make a direct impact on the health of underserved women. She used the resources of Harvard i-Lab. The Harvard i-lab is a resource available to students exploring innovation and entrepreneurship. She learned about Human-Centered Design. It was from that experience that Giving Cradle and Barakat Bundle were born.
Giving Cradle and Barakat Bundle
In North America, Giving Cradle provides a safety-certified, eco-friendly bamboo rocking cradle. Families can make a safe choice for their newborn and for a newborn in need.
In South Asia, they provide lifesaving Barakat Bundles. These bundles include a Giving Cradle, evidence based medical items, and health education to families in need.
Karima pitched the idea at the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition. They won enough funding to help them get started.
Today, Karima is the Founder & CEO of Giving Cradle. They sell safety-certified bamboo rocking cradles to families in North America. For every Giving Cradle sold, a mother and newborn in South Asia receive a bundle of needed supplies through Barakat Bundle.
“I think it is unjust that women and newborns continue to die from causes the world has already solved,” Karima says. “80% of maternal and infant deaths are completely preventable. We already have the tools to solve this problem. We just haven’t figured out how to get the items that are needed into the hands of people who need them. If we do get them the needed items, we need to teach them how to use them, and they need to want to use them.”