The AccessAbility Innovation Challenge
The AccessAbility Innovation Challenge, a collaborative effort by The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), and the Global Network of Young Persons with Disabilities (GNYPWD), has successfully concluded its application process. The challenge was born out of a shared desire to leverage innovation to enhance the capacity of young persons with disabilities and improve their access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services.
Reflecting the global appeal and shared commitment to fostering accessibility, the challenge received applications from 54 countries, spanning five continents. 11 from Asia, 39 from Africa, 5 from Europe, 4 from Americas, 1 from Australia/Oceania. A total of 224 out of 229 applicant organizations and project teams features representation of young persons with disabilities, submitted their ideas.
Themes that Emerged
An analysis of the submissions reveals some striking themes, underlining the pressing issues faced by young persons with disabilities globally:
Disability and Vulnerability: The applications echoed the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, particularly women, girls, and LGBTIQ community members, who encounter significant barriers to education, healthcare, and social inclusion, and heightened risks of gender-based violence.
Crisis Situations: Some applications shed light on the specific crises in areas such as the Central African Republic and Northeast Nigeria, where conflict has escalated poverty, health risks, and lack of access to SRHR services.
Gender-based Violence and SRHR: The intersection of gender-based violence and the lack of access to SRHR was another recurrent theme, particularly in marginalized communities.
Healthcare Access: A recurring issue was the limited access to adequate healthcare services, especially sexual and reproductive health services, particularly in rural or remote areas.
Socio-Cultural Barriers: Many applications highlighted the role of socio-cultural norms, stigma, and legal systems as significant obstacles in promoting SRHR and combating gender-based violence, especially for persons living with disabilities.
Digital Inclusion: The idea of leveraging digital tools to promote inclusion and provide accessible resources for young people with disabilities also came to the fore, signaling the increasing significance of technology in advancing SRHR services.
Environmental Considerations: Several applicants underscored the need for environmentally sustainable solutions in the realm of SRHR.
Economic and Social Impact of Disability: Many applicants brought attention to the social and economic impacts of disabilities, including the desperate measures some individuals resort to due to lack of resources.
Empowerment through Education: A significant number of applications highlighted the critical role of education and capacity-building programs in empowering marginalized groups.
The AccessAbility Innovation Challenge aimed to facilitate a global conversation around SRHR and disability, giving rise to exciting, diverse, and potentially transformative ideas. As the review process begins, the focus now turns to selecting the most promising teams and organizations that have the potential to drive real change in their communities.
Winners of the challenge stand to gain not only recognition but also invaluable resources such as mentorship, financial support, and opportunities to pilot their technology with UNFPA country offices. By offering these resources, the challenge aims to empower teams and organizations to scale innovative solutions that disrupt inequalities and foster the empowerment of women and girls.
The AccessAbility Innovation Challenge has succeeded in fostering a global dialogue on the pressing issue of access to SRHR for young persons with disabilities. As we look forward to the announcement of the winners, it is clear that the challenge has sparked a wave of innovative thinking set to disrupt traditional approaches to accessibility, and create a more inclusive and accessible future for all.