The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with Nailab – a technology business incubator – have launched an innovation accelerator, dubbed iAccelerator, focused on promoting youth sexual reproductive health and rights.
The program is part of a regional initiative of UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office funded by UKAID.
In Kenya, the initiative has been developed with the support of the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) and the Ministry of Health to ensure alignment with national priorities and further contribute to the realization of Vision 2030.
In support of the initiative NCPD Director General, Dr Josephine Kibaru-Mbae stated: “The future of Kenya is in the young people who constitute a third of our population. Empowerment of the youth through innovative interventions in education and training, gainful employment, provision of health information and services and enabling environment especially good governance systems and infrastructural investments will greatly contribute in helping Kenya achieve a Demographic Dividend and accelerate attainment of Vision 2030 aspirations.”
The iAccelerator launched under the I.AM initiative calls on young people to realize their desire to talk about, discuss, learn and understand their sexuality and sexual reproductive health by engaging with the right sources of information in a safe and un-stigmatized environment. In addition, the iAccelerator rallies the engagement of tools and techniques anchored on technology to foster safe spaces for empowerment of young people.
“Within the context of a rapidly evolving development and aid environment, it has become increasingly clear that UNFPA can no longer do business as usual. As the East and Southern Africa region strives to deliver excellence for the women, girls and young people we serve, innovation and out-of-the-box thinking will change the way we deliver programmes for years to come,” said Dr Julitta Onabanjo, Regional Director for UNFPA East and Southern Africa.
“The Innovation Accelerator provides an opportunity for the youth of our region to generate creative, market-based and context appropriate solutions to development challenges, while creating income-generating opportunities for young people in the process,” she said.
Current national statistics by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS, 2014) and the National AIDS Control Council (NACC, 2014) indicate that in Kenya, more than 29,000 young people between the ages of 15-24 get infected with HIV every year. One in every five teenage girl have begun motherhood, with approximately 13,000 dropping out of school each year to raise their kids. In addition, nearly half of all abortion related complications occur among girls below 25 years and is among the leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidity.
“We envisage that the solutions to the vast challenges faced by young people in matters of sexuality and sexual reproductive health lie in their hands and in technology,” said Sam Gichuru, founder, Nailab, during the launch, adding: “Data has been the primary anchor on which this acceleration program has been established. The power of customer centered solutions lies in the provision of data to innovators and consumers alike. Our passion is to not only catalyze the development of commercially viable businesses but more so businesses heavily invested in improving our societies’ wellbeing. This is indeed a labour of love for Nailab.”
Mr Siddharth Chatterjee, UNFPA Representative noted that: “The challenges UNFPA seeks to address, and the opportunities we strive to realize, are too complex for any one sector to face alone. Innovation and the active engagement of the private sector and young people in our work can be a true game changer.”
The UNFPA- Nailab accelerator project is set to run from August through to November 2016 but will be preceded by the campaign I.AM, through which young people will be called upon to own and engage in the conversation and also apply with their developed solutions that address sexuality and sexual reproductive health issues. Four (4) social enterprise lead by young entrepreneurs will be picked to join the accelerator program and go through 2 months of training, mentoring and assistance for fine-tuning their solution and business model and 2 months of support in going to market for which training, mentorship and seed-funding of Kshs 1,000,000 (US $10,000) will be availed based on achievement of pre-agreed business milestones.