The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed at least twenty years of progress for women and girls. The pandemic has overwhelmed health systems and supply chains across the globe and has derailed progress in sustainable development. In parallel, the pandemic has also catalyzed the acceleration of innovation, including in the booming health technology market.
In this context, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) are launching the Innovations to Empower Women and Girls Challenge to further develop and position to scale innovative solutions that can help disrupt inequalities and advance the empowerment of women and girls in all their diversity.
The Challenge will support women-centred innovations, including those that
i) provide affordable and sustainable access to essential reproductive health commodities, services, and information, with a focus on hard-to-reach areas and humanitarian settings, and
ii) scale-up prevention and response to gender-based violence and harmful practices.
UNFPA, in partnership with WIPO and ITU, will implement this joint Challenge. The partners will select up to 10 winning proposals from the applying Companies, and provide grants of up to $60,000 per award to position to scale. After the selection of awardees, winning Companies will sign a 9-month contract during which the awardees will fully develop and start implementing their plans to transition to scale, and will receive technical assistance in the focus areas, including intellectual property (IP) management and business modelling. WIPO will provide IP management support tailored to each of the awardees. This will include lectures, mentorship, and interactive workshops, and will be based on WIPO’s IP diagnostic and IP analytic tools. ITU will provide the bootcamp for winners, support mentorship, and support scale-up using its ecosystem development, initiatives sustainability, and scale-up frameworks.
Areas of Emphasis
We welcome innovative solutions that promote the empowerment of women and girls, focusing on ending unmet need for family planning, preventable maternal deaths, and gender-based violence and harmful practices. Companies interested in the Challenge must demonstrate that they are addressing an area of great need and that their solutions are designed with the users.
The following criteria will be used in assessing the eligibility of proposals submitted for consideration:
- The Company must be registered as a company/organization in a UNFPA programme country.
- At the time of application, the Company, including any JV/Consortium members and any of its individual members, is not under procurement prohibitions derived from the Compendium of United Nations Security Council Sanctions Lists and has not been suspended, debarred, sanctioned or otherwise identified as ineligible by any UN Organization or the World Bank Group.
- The innovation must be implemented in the UNFPA programme country in which the Company is registered in.
- The proposed innovation should be contributing to one of the following challenges: ending unmet need for family planning, ending preventable maternal deaths, or ending gender-based violence and harmful practices (see descriptions here).
- The Company must have already tested a prototype, proof of concept, and have a minimum viable product (MVP) which has been piloted and is ready to be positioned to scale. The MVP must belong to the submitting organization.
- The innovative solution must have a viable pathway to scale and sustainability via the market or public sector (definition as per UN Innovation Toolkit: driving adoption beyond the initial pilot’s target population).
- There must be either no similar solution to the one being proposed, or the proposed solution delivers more development impact per dollar, or is more cost-effective, than other ways of achieving the same objectives. There must be evidence to support this claim.
- Proposals must offer innovative solutions that promote the empowerment of women and girls, focusing on ending unmet need for family planning, preventable maternal deaths, or gender-based violence.
In addition to the eligibility criteria, priority will be given to solutions submitted by women-led enterprises. However, this call is open for all social enterprises working on solutions that address issues within the focus areas (ending unmet need for family planning, ending preventable maternal deaths, and ending gender-based violence and harmful practices).
Only one submission per applying Company is permitted. All submissions must be made in the English language only. Applying Companies will be required to submit proof of their legal registration and proof of initial customers using their solution.
Expected Results and Way Forward
Through this Challenge, UNFPA intends to partner with and support social enterprises and the ecosystems in which they operate. The Challenge will broaden UNFPA’s experience and portfolio in positioning innovations to scale. In addition, by blending financial investment with business mentoring, this Challenge is another step in pivoting from strictly grant-making models to self-sustaining financial models through the support provided by mentorship and coaching, and from “doing innovation” to managing it. Our journey with the Challenge awardees will not end at the conclusion of the 9-month support phase. We intend to encourage and support the Companies in continuing their partnerships with UNFPA Country Offices, track progress as they continue their transition to scale, and nurture the Companies as thought-partners and innovators in their ecosystems who can share best practices and lessons learned moving forward.
The application deadline has been extended to April 15 2022 and you can find the form with the link here
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