By Cecilia Ologunagba/New York
A Nigerian-based organisation, Hillspring Diagnostics, has won the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) global innovation award for one of the 10 projects that will advance the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.
The UN correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that UNFPA announced the 10 winners to its first ever Joint Innovation Challenge on Thursday.
Joint Innovation Challenge is a cutting-edge competition to provide funding for social enterprises with innovative solutions that advance the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.
Speaking on the award at a news conference in New York, UN spokesman, Mr Stéphane Dujarric, said 10 organisations that won the award are headed by women.
Dujarric said Hillspring Diagnostics from Nigeria came up with a revolutionary method for detecting ectopic pregnancy, a condition which can have dangerous consequences including death of the mother and baby if not diagnosed and treated in time.
According to him, organisations headed by women from other nine countries of Costa Rica, Armenia, Mongolia, Uganda, Turkey, Colombia, Bangladesh, Rwanda, and Cameroon were honoured.
Dujarric said the winners pitched a range of innovations – from a portable diagnostic system for pre-eclampsia to a board game that shares information on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“The 10 winners each received 60,000 dollars which will allow these organisations to move from pilot stage to scale,’’ he said.
The challenge was financed by UNFPA’s Equaliser Accelerator Fund, and implemented in cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the International Trade Centre.
Entrants were given the incentive of a cash prize which would allow them to expand their ideas from the test stage, to full production, for the potential benefit of millions around the world.
The challenge received further funding from the Governments of Luxembourg, Finland, and Denmark.
Launched in 2021, UNFPA’s 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.
Reacting to the award, Dr Natalia Kanem, UNFPA’s Executive Director said, in relation to the competition, “creative thinking and innovative solutions are key to accelerate progress for women and girls around the world.”
According to her, the 2022 challenge is awarding 10 women-helmed organisations from five different regions globally.
Initially, a panel of experts received 300 submissions from 61 countries.
After 20 finalists pitched their innovative ideas to the panel, the eventual 10 winners then signed nine-month contracts with UNFPA and will be receiving an equity-free investment of 60,000 dollars.
The funding will allow winning organisations to transition away from the pilot stage, and begin manufacturing at scale.
UNFPA and its partners will also support the social enterprises with targeted mentorship, training opportunities, interactive workshops, and unique access to the global UN network.
The winning ideas varied in function, but were united in ingenuity, said the agency.
Other winners from Africa are the Global Pre-Eclampsia Initiative from, Uganda; Urukundo Initiative, Rwanda and Women in Entrepreneurship and Technology (WETECH), Cameroon.