The U.S.’s Duke University and UNICEF declared last week that Lily Health, a digital health start-up that provides more than 120,000 women in Kenya with a personal health advisor via the WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger apps have been presented with a place in the Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator initiative.
One of the main objectives of this initiative is to lend support to social enterprises that are effectively tackling the biggest challenges children and youth around the world face daily. It could also serve to greatly help those on medical volunteering abroad programmes when dealing with patients too.
Lily Health is set to join five additional social enterprises in the Innovation Accelerator program to gain assistance in terms of the development and also scale innovations that are focussing on overcoming issues surrounding menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) in East Africa and further afield.
When asked about the news, the Co-Founder of Lily Health, MacGregor Lennarz said: “We are thrilled to be part of the Duke UNICEF Innovation Accelerator. We see it both as a confirmation of our hard work thus far and an opportunity to leverage world-class expertise to scale Lily to millions of women.”
As one of the nominees, UNICEF intends to inject up to £122,000 into the app, allowing them to gain access to expert resources. The Innovation Accelerator initiative is a two-year program that sees awardees also benefit for a host of additional resources, such as UNICEF subject matter experts, monthly webinars, mentorship opportunities, Duke University faculty and student insight and assistance, and a week-long residency at the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative (I&E).
On April 3rd 2020, Duke is set to host a global summit that encompasses a wealth of business leaders, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, academics, activists and students. This conference will offer up the chance to shine a light on the Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator entrepreneurs and give them the exciting prospect of engaging in conversation with other experts and practitioners who are at the forefront of both social innovation as well as international development.
Jon Fjeld, director of Duke’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative (I&E) said: “We look forward to hosting this extraordinary group of entrepreneurs on the Duke campus for an intensive residency where we will connect them into expertise, resources, and mentorship across the Duke Innovation System.”
He went on to say: “Duke has a long history of educating and supporting social entrepreneurs, and we are proud to partner with UNICEF to maximise the impact of these important social enterprises.”
The innovators’ solutions come in many different and equally important forms, ranging from digital apps (Lily Health) to community health models and reusable and disposable sanitary pads, to name a few; but the one common goal they all share is the aim to improve and support menstrual hygiene, health and management as well as breaking down barriers around widespread cultural taboos and educational issues associated with menstruation.
When adolescent girls begin to experience puberty and begin to menstruate, many are subsequently faced with challenges, not just at school, but also at home that can create stress, embarrassment, shame, fear and confusion. They often have to deal with challenges that include a lack of knowledge about menstruation, having inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products, and insufficient wash facilities so that they can get changed in a private space, along with the inability to subtly dispose of used menstrual products.
The initiative presents the opportunity for the entrepreneurs to put females at the fore and collectively bring much-needed solutions to African girls, which will ultimately help to empower the next generation of women to be healthy, happy, and informed.
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