Palestine Pulse

Palestinian mom counters child-rearing myths with modern app

Article Summary
When Nour al-Khodari found herself with a baby and no family members to help, she panicked; then she realized it was a blessing and a business opportunity.

Gaza Strip, GAZA CITY — Nour al-Khodari came up with the idea for her award-winning app Momy Helper after she gave birth to a son in 2014 while living in Chicago far from her family. The child-rearing advice she found online was mostly written in English.

“I was surprised to see that there was a great deal of research on child rearing published on social media and in magazines. Most of it was in-depth, well-documented and scientific — a sharp contrast to the Arabic content I found, which was mostly limited and from sources unverifiable" and often based on old wives' tales, Khodari, the founder and CEO of Momy Helper, told Al-Monitor.

Upon returning to the Gaza Strip in 2015, Khodari first started a blog on child rearing. In February 2017, she launched Momy Helper, a website and app that offer advice to mothers through Arabic articles, videos and blogs. The site contains tips, advice and research from educators, dieticians and psychologists on how to ensure your child eats what is put on the table to what to do when a child is jealous of siblings. Mothers who have further questions can also book consultancy sessions.

In October, the Momy Helper app won the second prize at Startup Istanbul, an annual fair that brings together tech companies, executives, startups and investors from 65 countries.

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Khodari studied journalism and media at the Islamic University of Gaza and worked in film production and direction as well as screenwriting of cartoons at Zaitoon Cartoons’ Department in Gaza for four years. She then studied for a master’s degree at Chicago’s DePaul University.

When Khodari gave birth to her first child, Bassem, in Chicago, she was at first depressed because she was far from her family in the Gaza Strip. She discovered that the online information for mothers was far more scientific than the advice she would get from her family.

When she returned to Gaza in 2015, she started blogging on motherhood and kept an online diary about her daily activities with her son. Khodari also criticized traditional educational methods in the Palestinian territories. Arab mothers in Palestine and abroad started following her and ask her for advice on motherhood and education, which resulted in Khodari establishing a consultancy company.

She showed her project to Gaza Sky Geeks, who was interested in supporting her efforts. Momy Helper was established at the end of 2016, and the team created a website, an app on Google Store and an iOS, Apple's phone and tablet operating system.

Arab mothers can read child-rearing information and research on the website and ask for advice about many issues — from a healthy diet to child behavior. They can seek advice on how to raise children with autism or other special needs. The website also includes Khodari’s email and number so that women can contact her directly for a 25-minute consultancy session.

“My biggest incentive for this project is that I am a mother who benefited from the right information, and I should help other Arab women — not just Palestinians — to benefit from [good advice and research]. [My website addresses] some misconceptions in child-rearing,” she said.

The company includes several consultants from the Palestinian territories and the Arab world. One session costs $15 that is paid through an online payment system or a credit card. According to Khodari, similar consultations elsewhere may cost up to $100. She noted that the website and app combine different aspects of child-rearing so that mothers do not need to find experts in different fields, adding that women in the Arab world are not encouraged to seek the advice of specialists as mothers and grandmothers are considered knowledgeable to advise the younger generation.

The Momy Helper website includes more than 400 articles — some of them are translations and others are written for the site by content writers and consultants. Including Nour, the company employs 12 staff members: three programmers, three content writers, a customer service employee, a designer, a video editor, a web developer and a consultant coordinator.

The website welcomes different consultants from the Arab world, mainly the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian territories. The site has hundreds of visitors daily and roughly 10,000 visits per month, including from mothers who seek psychological advice in relation to violent child or teenage behavior. Consultancy requests exceed 10 per day at present. 

Alaa Assaed, a content writer and translator for Momy Helper, checks English-language magazines and online sources to keep abreast with topics relevant for mothers and families with children. “We try to keep up to date with daily tips that would make the lives of mothers easier,” she told Al-Monitor.

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Amjad Yaghi is a Palestinian journalist residing in Gaza. He has worked as a correspondent for several Arab newspapers and magazines, including the Lebanese Al-Akhbar and Al-Araby al-Jadeed, as well as for Karbala Satellite TV, Qatar Television and Amwaj Sport. Yaghi has won four local awards for investigative reporting on corruption and violations of women and children's rights in Gaza and was nominated in 2015 for an Arab Journalism Award in the youth category.

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