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UNFPA launches groundbreaking digital innovation strategy and toolkit to help end Female Genital Mutation and child marriage in East and Southern Africa

With the clock ticking towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNFPA, the United Nations Sexual and reproductive health agency announced a groundbreaking new initiative to help create a safer world where women and girls can live free from violence and harmful practices, to achieve their fullest potential.

The Social Innovation Toolkit, a central component of the Regional Innovation and Digital Transformation Strategy for East Africa, aims to address critical challenges such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, and empower young people through digital innovation. The initiative was unveiled at the Financing Innovation and Digital Transformation in Africa Dialogue in Sandton.

“Innovation is a key accelerator to achieving the ambitious SDG targets,” said Chinwe Ogbonna, UNFPA Deputy Regional Director for East and Southern Africa. “Our Social Innovation Toolkit is designed to equip young people, especially adolescents and girls, with the resources they need to develop innovative solutions to end harmful practices.”

The toolkit, titled Addressing Harmful Practices through Social Innovation: A UNFPA Innovation Guide for ‘YOU’ and Startups, offers valuable resources for young innovators. It provides practical guidance and connects users to social enterprise growth support both within and outside Africa. This interactive, self-help toolkit fosters the development of new ideas and encourages young people to participate actively in their own development.

“Innovators in Africa face challenges such as lack of investment, limited entrepreneurship support and poor market access,” said Sydney Hushie, Regional Innovation Specialist for UNFPA East and Southern Africa. “Despite these challenges, young people are leading change in their own ways. This toolkit will support their efforts and help scale their innovative solutions.”

 

The launch event in Johannesburg brought together a range of key partners, including representatives from the African Development Bank, Uyoyo Edosio, Frank Asiwani of the Africa Venture Philanthropy Alliance. The dialogue highlighted the role of innovation and digital technology in advancing sustainable development and tackling issues like FGM.

 

Mark Marangu, founder of Tutor Register from Kenya, emphasized the importance of sustainable financing for innovative projects. He spoke of how support from organizations like UNFPA was instrumental in developing and scaling his innovative idea into a successful product.

In a panel discussion on bridging the gap between child protection stakeholders, leveraging real-time data for child protection, and building viable business structures, the panelists discussed financing, innovation and digital transformation, and reinforced a collective commitment to driving positive change in the region.

UNFPA will continue to work with young people as active agents of change to end harmful practices across Africa. “We implore young innovators to take advantage of this toolkit and other initiatives to support this collective effort,” added Mr. Hushie.

The toolkit and the Regional Innovation and Digital Transformation Strategy are expected to positively impact several SDGs in the region.

For more information about the Social Innovation Toolkit and the Regional Innovation and Digital Transformation Strategy for Eastern Africa, visit UNFPA ESARO.

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