UNFPA Innovations to Empower Women and Girls Challenge.

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The effect of  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. The world is emerging with more women-centered solutions than ever before.

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 (the 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-centered 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.

The Challenge aims to support social enterprises (the Companies) registered in UNFPA programme countries to pivot from grant-making models to self-sustaining financial models, and from “doing innovation” to managing it. Thus, positioning innovation projects to scale through social enterprises facilitates that step towards self-sustaining solutions. The Challenge will provide a mentorship scheme to increase the potential/capabilities of the awardees to scale up innovations across developing countries. It will thus create and nurture an ecosystem of innovators, mentors, and key stakeholders who will then, in turn, support the solutions and their sustainability models.


Eligibility Requirements for the UNFPA Innovations to Empower Women and Girls Challenge

  1. The Company must be registered as a company/organization in a UNFPA programme country.
  2. 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.
  3. The innovation must be implemented in the UNFPA programme country in which the Company is registered in.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. 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.


  • An invitation to participate in a virtual bootcamp to further refine their plans and their milestones in the project design plan (e.g., market entry, deployment, impact traction).
    Seed funding up to USD 60,000 USD, provided in two tranches, to position to scale their proposed solution, in accordance with the project design plan agreed upon with organizers during the bootcamp, including a sound budget and workplan with clear milestones and budget allocation.
  • The second tranche of the award will be given based on demonstrated progress of implementation and achievement of milestones.
  • The awards will be provided by UNFPA subject to the terms and conditions of the funding agreement signed between UNFPA and each awardee Company.

Challenge Format:

  • 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 key focus areas, including intellectual property (IP) management and business modeling.
  • WIPO will provide IP management support through a tailored workshop, including the use of WIPO IP Diagnostics. ITU will provide the bootcamp for winners, support mentorship, and support scale-up using its ecosystem development, initiatives sustainability, and scale-up frameworks.
  • At the end of the Challenge, Companies will report on their results and submit their plans and business model reflecting the next steps to scale up the innovative solution.
  • The Challenge will be open to all Companies registered and operating in UNFPA programme countries who are working on solutions within the mandate areas of UNFPA.

Application Deadline: March 31st, 2022


For More Information:

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