Fellow Portrait

Rana El Sakhawy

MonkiBox is an early learning platform that helps parents support their child’s cognitive and physical development through science-backed play essentials and information matched to the child’s stage of development.

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MonkiBox is an early learning platform that helps parents support their child’s cognitive and physical development through science-backed play essentials and information matched to the child’s stage of development.

04. Quality Education

12. Responsible consumption and Production

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Middle East & North Africa

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

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Finalist

2021

Parents are under pressure and overwhelmed with data

Eighty-five percent of human brain development occurs before age three, making those first years a crucial foundation for future learning. Parents feel pressure to give their children the strongest start in life by curating early learning and development experiences, yet lack the time and expertise to do so. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, only about 30 percent of children are enrolled in pre-primary education, the third-lowest rate worldwide. This leaves parents on their own, uncertain of what is best for their babies and swamped by masses of information about early childhood learning.

Rana El Sakhawy experienced this when she became a mother. She wanted to make sure she wasn’t neglecting a critical part of her baby’s development in those formative years. At the same time, she says, “You have all this information coming from friends, from doctors, from mom groups, from parent groups.” Trying to make sense of everything and simplify it in a way she could put into action was overwhelming.

I used to spend countless hours just researching and trying to understand what my baby's going through. How can I help her develop? And how can I give her the best start in life?

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Playtime with purpose for children in MENA

Rana started MonkiBox as an answer to this information overload, to give parents the right products and the right information at just the right time. MonkiBox’s offering began as a toy curation subscription service and has evolved to designing and manufacturing play essentials that are grounded in the science of early childhood development.

The company’s sustainability goal has led it to focus on natural materials and partner with sustainable manufacturers to create high-quality products that minimize environmental impact. There are black-and-white cards for visual stimulation for the youngest babies and Montessori-inspired tools and activity-based toys for older babies starting to explore the world. Each box comes with easy-to-follow guides featuring expert advice so parents can better understand their children’s developmental stages.

The company has reached about 1,300 families since its founding in mid-2018. “Seeing how the parents react is very satisfying,” Rana says. “I love hearing a parent tell us, ‘Oh, wow, I feel so in tune with what my child is going through’ or ‘It's amazing. I'm looking at my child in a different way.’”

Parents buy toy after toy, trying to figure if it is going to add anything to the child’s life. What we're doing is providing them with the play essentials.

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Becoming the parents’ partner

The company’s vision is to expand beyond the UAE to reach more than half a million families in MENA and in neighboring developing countries. “We want to be in all the major cities. We want to expand geographically and impact as many children as possible,” Rana says. She sees potential for the company to grow with its subscribers to potentially serve children beyond age three. “Our ultimate vision is to become the parents’ partner when it comes to their child's early development, and empower parents to become the main promoter of their child's development.”

In the next five years, our goal is to impact more than 600,000 families across MENA and in neighboring developing countries.

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PHOTO GALLERY

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