UNFPA, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, is pleased to announce the ten winners of its first-ever Joint Innovation Challenge, a competition to provide funding for social enterprises with innovative solutions that advance the empowerment of women and girls worldwide. The winners pitched a range of innovations, from a portable diagnostic system for pre-eclampsia to a board game that disseminates information on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Financed by UNFPA’s Equalizer Accelerator Fund, and implemented in cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the International Trade Center (ITC), the 2022 Challenge is awarding ten women-helmed organizations hailing from five different regions globally.
“Creative thinking and innovative solutions are key to accelerate progress for women and girls around the world,” says Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA’s Executive Director. “Through the Equalizer, UNFPA is pleased to support a dynamic group of entrepreneurs and their game-changing ideas. Thanks to funding from the Governments of Luxembourg, Finland, and Denmark, life-changing projects like these are possible.”
The Challenge received 300 submissions from 61 countries. After 20 finalists pitched to an expert panel, the 10 winners signed nine-month contracts with UNFPA and received an equity-free investment of USD 60,000. The funding will allow these organizations to move from pilot stage to scale. UNFPA and its partners will further support the social enterprises with targeted mentorship, training opportunities, interactive workshops, and unique access to the UN network.
Launched in 2021, UNFPA’s Equalizer Accelerator Fund invests in projects that will expand access to contraception and maternal health services for women and girls and end gender-based violence. The fund provides equity-free investments in social enterprises that are led or co-led by women and can show evidence of the impact they will have, enabling them to test and scale up their projects.
Winners of the Joint Innovation Challenge 2022:
Paniamor Foundation, Costa Rica:
- Foundation Paniamor develops a novel digital toolkit for adolescent girls to help prevent and respond to online violence.
- GerHub reaches women and girls in remote areas with information and sexual and reproductive health services through mobile clinics and telemedicine.
Global Pre-Eclampsia Initiative, Uganda:
- A portable diagnostic system that helps pregnant women with early detection, timely referral, and effective management of pre-eclampsia – a life-threatening hypertensive disorder causing up to 10% of pregnancy-related deaths in Africa.
Hillspring Diagnostics, Nigeria:
- A revolutionary method to detect ectopic pregnancy, which has dangerous consequences including death if not diagnosed and treated on time.
Impact Innovations Institute, Armenia:
- The SafeYou app is a unique digital solution that provides women and girls with security functions to protect them against violence and offers tools for survivors.
- An immersive augmented reality experience that aims to stop gender-based violence by introducing people to simulations based on women’s real-life experiences.
Tirando X Colombia, Colombia:
- An AI-enhanced chatbot that provides adolescent girls with quality sexual and reproductive health information and services, helping to end the cycle of poverty generated by teenage pregnancies.
- A one-stop family health and wellbeing platform that provides access to family planning, reproductive health information, and services for young women and new mothers.
Urukundo Initiative, Rwanda:
- Urukundo Life Skills Board Game is the first ever licensed low-tech educational game in Rwanda that disseminates information on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Women in Entrepreneurship and Technology (WETECH), Cameroon:
- A community hub and women’s innovation center that offers a digital tool that connects survivors and persons at risk of gender-based violence via a secure and confidential messaging platform.