UNFPA Young People's Sexual and Reproductive Health Challenge: Top Ideas Announced

Celebrating four innovative solutions that promote menstrual health around the world

In Parternship with
The Challenge

How might we radically improve access to, and quality of, sexual and reproductive health education and services for young people?

UNFPA Team Celebrates Top Ideas

After reviewing more than 270 submissions over the course of the past six months, we have selected four Top Ideas that we believe will help to create communities where every woman and girl has the ability to make informed decisions and manage their health, with access to high quality sexual and reproductive health information, products, and services.  

These Top Ideas reflect the collective momentum of this community, over 2,000 comments, and hundreds of Challenge participants who recognize that current solutions for women and girls are insufficient. We celebrated this announcement on May 28—International Menstrual Hygiene Day—and are honored to have the opportunity to work with these organizations that will be bringing innovative solutions to menstrual health challenges in their communities. 

Help keep up the momentum by clicking on the links below to learn more about each Top Idea and leave a comment to congratulate them!

Be Girl

SmartCycle is a physical tracking tool and educational app to address adolescents' limited access to age-appropriate menstruation and reproductive health information in Colombia and Mozambique. 

"At Be Girl, we believe access to design is critical to remove barriers to opportunities and break poverty traps. Products play a major role in leveling the playing-field for people, particularly youth and girls in limited-resource settings who too often are overlooked due to their limited purchasing power. Platforms like IDEO/UNFPA allow us to work collectively to democratize access to design and unlock the power that comes with it, transforming lives and providing everyone the opportunity to achieve their infinite potential."

— Diana Sierra, Founder & CEO, Be Girl

Inteco Kenya

ARI Dispensers enable distribution of single sanitary pads via a cashless, discrete system to in- and out-of-school adolescent girls in Nairobi slum areas. 

"We are super excited about this new chapter in our journey. Winning the Challenge has put a spring into our step. It has validated all the trials that we have faced. We honestly cannot wait to see what is in store for us."

— Munira Twahir, Founder and Strategy Director of Inteco Kenya, expressed excitement about the future of this solution.

Smart Girls Foundation Uganda

Bags4Girls are comprehensive menstrual hygiene kits and educational programming designed with and for girls in Uganda.

"Change is worth fighting for. We are so happy for winning this Challenge since it's going to enable us to empower vulnerable adolescent girls."

— Shamim Nantumbwe, Program Manager Smart Bags4Girls / Managing Director, Smart Girls Foundation Uganda.

"On behalf of the team, I want to extend our sincere gratitude on this Challenge win. We are so very excited about the support and mentorship we are to get and we promise to put it to good use for the betterment of adolescent girls in Uganda."

— Jacent Kabayaga, M&E Coordinator Smart Bags4Girls Program, Smart Girls Foundation Uganda 

Women's Global Health Innovations

Bfree Duo combines menstrual hygiene management and conceptive technology with knowledge support and training to address the personal health needs of South Sudanese adolescent girls living in northern Ugandan refugee settlements.

"ZanaAfrica is thrilled to partner with WGHI to help girls realize the promise of their further through integrated menstrual, sexual and reproductive rights. The BFree Duo, combined with our health magazine and OpenIDEO’s human-centered design support, will measurably and scalably help tens of thousands of adolescent girls safely navigate adolescents, unhindered and on their own terms. We are thrilled IDEO is taking a bold stand for menstrual rights."

— Megan White-Mukuria, Founder & CEO, ZanaAfrica

What’s Next?

Over the coming weeks, UNFPA will work with each of the Top Idea teams to tailor a support package based on unique project needs.

We are deeply inspired by the enthusiastic response from individuals, communities, and organizations around the world, creating new solutions to a complex, yet critical issues. Thank you for lending your inspiration, expertise and voices to our global collaboration.    

There’s never been more momentum for change. As millions of young people flood the streets around the globe to demand urgent climate action, cities and social entrepreneurs have taken matters into their own hands. Feeling this rising bottom-up pressure, governments, corporations, and multilateral organizations, like the UN, are accelerating their efforts to address massive global issues. The UN Sustainable Development Goals have provided a clear framework for action, and they’re helping align more actors than ever in the systems change we need.

OpenIDEO’s leaders, Jason Rissman and Luisa Covaria, spent the week diving into events and conversations, and came back to our team (and now you, our community) with three main themes they wanted to share as we work together to build a better world:

1. Ownership.

Since kicking off the Climate Strike a year ago, 16-year-old Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg has been extraordinarily influential in striking up fierce conversations around climate change and inspiring millions of young people to start taking action. She delivered an unforgettable message at the UN Climate Action Summit, telling world leaders: 

"You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you." 

There’s a new urgency and commitment to addressing the climate emergency, and it’s translating into actors at all levels—from individual young people to national governments—starting to take more ownership. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated, “We have been losing the race against the climate crisis. But the world is waking up. Pressure is building. Momentum is growing. And—action by action—the tide is turning.”

Countries have moved past negotiation and toward ownership, showing up with their own commitments in unison with this year’s theme for UNGA: "Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action, and inclusion." During the week, 77 countries committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and 139 banks—representing a third of the industry—signed up to align with the Paris agreement objectives. The UN member states also adopted a landmark declaration on universal health coverage. These are just a few of many examples of stakeholders proactively bringing forward their solutions. 

HOW WE'RE THINKING ABOUT THIS

Sharing his observations from listening to diverse groups of Americans this past year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told the audience that he saw a “tremendous urgency and a tremendous spirit of do-it-yourself … a deep sense that it had to become a matter of personal responsibility right down to the local level.” Echoing his statement, we’re proud of OpenIDEO's globally connected innovators for taking initiative and developing a sense of ownership around local problems. They’re tackling issues related to food waste, people on the move, education, public health, circular economy, and so much more, with dedication and ingenuity.

As we move forward, how might open innovation be a conduit for increased ownership and visibility into the work different stakeholders are taking on? How might the work of so many of the incredible innovators in the OpenIDEO community inspire leaders to develop a mindset around design and prototyping in the work they are owning?

2. Technology

"We will have wonderful machines and dumb people if we don't invest more in education,” cautioned musician and entrepreneur, will.i.am, during a World Economic Forum panel focused on the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution—or the multiple technological revolutions that are transforming the way we live and work—to meet global development goals.

“It’s not about connectivity—it’s about access,” noted Kate Wilson, CEO of the Digital Impact Alliance at the UN Foundation. “How do we provide access to 50% of the world not connected to the internet? SMS and voice won’t do it. How do we create content and opportunities that are relevant?”

It's crucial that no one is left behind. While technological innovation is surely part of the answer, uneven access and unequal digital skills will lead to adverse effects. For tech to improve lives in a responsible and even way, and to avoid even greater increases in inequity, we'll need new models of targeted education, responsive innovation, and real cooperation between economic, political, and social systems.

HOW WE'RE THINKING ABOUT THIS

Tech needs to facilitate inclusion in addressing societal problems, by involving those who are most proximate to the problems that well-intentioned new technologies are aiming to solve. We believe that collaborative thinking leads to greater innovation, and that including the voices of those with lived experiences will generate even stronger solutions. Open innovation is in its infancy, and we’re excited to help it advance to better surface and support the social innovators our future needs.

3. Collaboration

Today’s problems are interconnected, and only through systems change can we hope to make real progress. This will require more cross-sector collaboration than ever, but first, we need to improve how these collaborations are created and sustained. It’s time to introduce new models of collaboration that distribute leadership and allow all sectors to pitch in.

The SDGs have provided a powerful framework for what needs to get done, and some of the biggest players in the public and private spheres are putting their heads together to unlock the resources necessary to meet them. During UNGA, Google and the UN launched a partnership to develop real-time maps on weather patterns and SDG development activity, while the Gates Foundation and the World Bank announced a multi-million dollar commitment to support small-scale food producers in the face of mounting climate impacts.

Public-private partnerships are a necessary ingredient, as are new collaboration models that offer participants more shared ownership and flexibility.

The road to healthy collaboration is fraught with challenges, from getting past cultural differences to agreeing to common goals to making the long-term commitments needed for systemic change. Making collaborations work is hard work -- it takes empathy, grit, and a real understanding that it’s the key to sustained progress.

HOW WE'RE THINKING ABOUT THIS

We’re excited for open innovation to provide a unique opportunity to rally diverse stakeholders and together explore new possibilities. By providing shared learning opportunities, clear timelines and processes, along with compelling incentives, open innovation holds the potential to mitigate against these common obstacles and to quicken the pace at which solutions are being developed by scaling the design process globally. Direct competitors collaborating in a pre-competitive space to address environmental challenges is a promising sign, but we need to go further. We all need to adopt an experimental mindset as a collective and work to continuously improve our ability to collaborate.

The NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, which culminated in a pitch event at UNGA, was one such collaboration, with leading brands, industry experts, and innovators coming together to eliminate single-use food packaging waste by developing a more sustainable cup. 

It is incredible to be in a room where you can feel a community reach a turning point. This year at UNGA we felt that shift tangibly across fields and sectors. We look forward to a year of collaborations with our partners and community that reflect this movement. 





















What Do We Hope To Accomplish?

The Rockefeller Foundation has partnered with SecondMuse and OpenIDEO to amplify the discourse on the state and the future of the world’s many food systems, and to empower communities globally to develop actionable solutions and become protagonists in their own food future. Creating a compelling, concrete and actionable Vision for the future of our food system requires a culture of collaboration that rallies industry, policy, academia, and society to act as one. When we come together, we can deliver sustainable, nourishing diets for people and the planet by 2050.

Why Food Systems?

Aside from air, food (including clean water) is the most vital resource for life on Earth. And when you look at the food systems data and 2050 projections, the future does look bleak. But Humanity has more knowledge, technology, social intelligence, and human capacity than ever before—all of which can be harnessed to create a food system that nourishes all people, grows the global economy, and nurtures a thriving environment.

A Systems Approach

The Food System Vision Prize invites organizations and entities (called Visionaries) to imagine a hopeful, inspiring Vision for their chosen Place—town, state/province, region, bioregion, watershed, or country—through a systems approach. The goal for the program is to develop Visions that reflect the views of different stakeholders and that address the following six Themes:
1. Environment
2. Diets
3. Economics
4. Culture
5. Technology
6. Policy

Our Goal

Successful Food System Visions will be stories of contrast. They will illuminate the difference among food systems as they exist today and as they could be in the year 2050 “if we get it right” (science, policy, advocacy, behavior, etc.). Visions will unlock inspiration, knowledge, networks, and innovative solutions that have the potential to transform the future course of humanity and the planet. The purpose of the Food System Vision Prize is to light the way for populations across the globe to realize a more promising, nourishing, and healthy future.

Sign up to stay tuned for updates!

ABOUT THE CHALLENGE

We ran the UNFPA Young People's Sexual and Reproductive Health Challenge because we believe young people have the fundamental right to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, as well as have access to relevant care. By providing access and education, and reducing the stigma around sexual and reproductive health, young people can live without fear, make smart decisions for themselves, and work toward their dreams.