Early and unintended pregnancies have severe consequences for the young girls themselves as well as for society at a large. A broad number of factors contribute to increased adolescent/early and unintended pregnancies. For example, policies, legislations and accountability mechanisms which are not inclusive and/or do not fully ensure the promotion and protection of adolescents and young people's rights, especially their sexual and reproductive health and rights have a negative impact on girls and young women and increase the chances of them becoming pregnant.

UNFPA is committed to achieving their three Transformative Results (TRs) by 2030, these being (a) ending preventable maternal deaths, (b) ending the unmet need for family planning, and (c) ending gender-based violence and harmful practices, including child marriage and female genital mutilation. In light of this, UNFPA is launching the Early Pregnancy Hacklab 2022, which will explore innovation as an approach to accelerating efforts towards achieving the three TRs and ensure protection and fulfillment of girls' rights.

The Hacklab will target young innovators who have aspiring solutions that when taken to scale can make impactful change for girls at risk of early pregnancy. The hacklab will also identify intermediaries including accelerators within Country Offices (COs), incubators, investors, marketers etc who can support young innovators to thrive and become leaders of societal change. The project will identify innovators and connect them with COs to assist them with aligning with UNFPAs mandate to develop their innovative solution in addressing issues related to early pregnancy. This will mitigate the impact of early pregnancy on communities especially women and youth, identifying and empowering young innovators and activists to ideate on solutions reflecting youth leadership on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).

The UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) Early and Unintended Pregnancy HackLab will source innovative solutions to accelerate collective efforts to end Early and Unintended Pregnancy across the ESA region. The goal of this Hacklab is to create a world where communities, including women and girls are supported and lead the campaign against early and unintended pregnancy. The HackLab will engage youth innovators, COs and an incubation partner to scale innovation solutions to end Early Pregnancy in East and Southern Africa.

Format of the challenge

1. First Phase - Call for Innovations

This is where you come in! We invite you to apply for the call, and submit your innovations. Once the call for solutions has closed, UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) will make a long list of all submitted solutions, and then send the applications to the corresponding Country Office (COs). After receiving the long list of solutions from ESARO, the COs are responsible for the selection of one innovative solution in their country (which aligns directly to the Country Programme Document - the key document which articulates UNFPA's contribution to achieving national priorities, goals and results ) to represent them at the final pitch event.

2. Second Phase - Technical capacity building for innovators and COs and final pitch event

CO staff will collaborate with the innovators to prepare and present their solutions at the final pitch event. COs will assist innovators with synergising their innovations to the CPDs of the applying countries, UNFPA's mandate and further develop their innovative solution in addressing issues related to early and unintended pregnancy.

Technical capacity building for innovators and COs will be provided by an acceleration incubation partner and UNFPA ESARO.

The COs and innovators must demonstrate that the solution is novel in the SYP programme country but has been tested on a small scale already and have a clear plan for incubating the solution to scale. At a final pitch event, a panel of technical and programmatic experts will evaluate the solutions and select the two winning innovation solutions. Each of the two emerging solutions will benefit from a seed fund of USD$10,000 cash investments and another $10,000 in business and investment readiness in-kind support.

3. Third Phase - Investment Readiness preparation

Following the final pitch event, investment readiness preparations will be initiated. This support programme will be conducted by an acceleration incubation partner in collaboration with the COs and ESARO, to ensure that the innovative solution is viable, sustainable and ready for market.

Disbursement of the seed fund will be based on advice of the business and investment readiness coach to be assigned to the innovation team. The aim is to develop an investment ready social enterprise and a product that is scalable based on customer acquisition, revenue, reach and impact.

Timeline of Challenge

Opportunity Areas for innovative solutions

We welcome ideas and solutions in the following areas:

Policy and Advocacy

1. Improved data and information sharing and management between stakeholders mandated to protect girls - these can include law enforcement, health service providers, education providers, religious and community systems among others.

2. Create awareness about existing policies that protect the rights of pregnant girls to access services including education and other reproductive health services

3. Identify common areas among various existing laws and policies

4. Harmonization of traditional laws and policies and national laws and policies on EUP

5. Innovative financing/funding models to support agencies mandated to protect women and girls from EUP

Information and Services

1. Innovations solving the missed opportunity between the education and health sector

2. Addressing the drivers of EUP through multisectoral innovative opportunities

3. Ensuring condoms and other contraception is readily available to young people

4. Out of school comprehensive sexual education that builds in significant skills for young people to negotiate protected sex

Eligibility Criteria

To participate in the Hacklab, the selected innovation solution must meet the following criteria:

1. Ideas must be new, innovative and respond to any of the opportunity areas identified above.

2. Be based in an UNFPA SYP Programme country (Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe);

3. Solutions must have been tested previously on a small scale and be at the stage to be scaled up;

4. Demonstrate capacity with a clear plan for incubating the solution to scale;

5. Innovations can be submitted by individuals, teams of individuals, non-governmental organizations (NGO) or companies;

6. Priority will be given to solutions from innovators under the age of 35 or from youth-led organizations or companies;

7. Align with the UNFPAs transformative results and/core mandate;

8. Align with the UN principles of innovation;

9. Be scalable and potentially commercially viable solutions. Solutions that are adaptable to other contexts with little financial inject required;

10. Have a demonstrable capacity to empower women and youth;

11. Teams must be willing to adjust their solution if advised by their Country Office facilitating their technical capacity building;

12. Willingness to showcase their solutions through communication platforms to be determined by UNFPA.

Evaluation/Scoring (shortlisting)

Relevance and alignment of solution: (max. 25 points)

  • How relevant is the project for solving the challenges of Early and Unintended Pregnancies?
  • Does the solution support at least one of the two priority areas of the call (Policy and Advocacy efforts or Information and Service provision) at SYP country level?
  • Does the solution empower women and youth?

Novelty of project and desired stage of development: (max. 25 points)

  • How novel is the solution (new, new application of an existing solution, or scaling existing initial pilot to new areas), aligned with UN Innovation Principles
  • How robust are its results of initial prototyping/piloting/past data collection and projected milestones?

Sustainability and scalability (max. 25 points)

  • Does the solution 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)?
  • Does the company, organization or individual engage with local partners to assure viability in local conditions, and promote sustainability and scalability of the solution within the target community?
  • Does the solution demonstrate potential for scalability in-country or beyond?

Project budget (max. 25 points)

  • Does the proposed budget match the innovation award limits and outlined costs are reasonable?
  • Does the company/organization/individual indicate other sources of income to support their operations?

Alignment with Country Programme Document (CPD) (max. 25 points)

  • How well does the proposed solution align with the CPD?
  • Could the solution easily be integrated in future annual work plans of the CO?
Evaluation/Scoring (at the final pitch event)

1. Potential impact on accelerating efforts towards ending early and unintended pregnancy in Africa – 20%:

Reach and scale of solution; Impact on the identified gap; Accessibility of beneficiaries/communities; Impact on quality, cost, and the effectiveness of services.

2. Operational plan and indicators of success – 20%:

SMART KPIs and milestones; Demonstrable use of evidence and data to inform product design and operations; impact documentation and dissemination plan; Documentation of failures and lessons learned.

3. Scalability - 20%:

Exponential scale strategy; Solution addresses a clear problem/need across contexts and other locations; Solution demonstrates the ability to use existing infrastructure and/or resources; Innovation is able to be replicated in other contexts.

4. Team and key personnel – 10%:

Demonstrable expertise of key personnel; Demonstrable connections with local stakeholders, including the UNFPA Country Office; Diversity of team including number of women in leadership roles in the team; Clear organogram and division of roles and responsibilities.

5. Sustainability and partnerships - 10%:

Demonstrated a clear plan for growing the social enterprise including customer acquisition and product development

6. Budget – 20%:

Alignment of costs and overall budget with milestones; Realistic cost estimates – competitive pricing; Capacity to sustain solutions beyond UNFPA support; Fit with overall corporate mission.


1.  Each of the two emerging solutions will benefit from a seed fund investment of USD$10,000.

2. Another $10,000 in kind investment readiness business support will be provided by identified business coaches. The acceleration support provided by Afrilabs will include business support services including exposure to investment opportunities, business coaching, customer acquisition, brand positioning and awareness etc.

Submission Deadline

Sunday, 21 August 2022 at 5pm South African Standard Time

Any Questions?

Please contact Isabelle Jost, Programme Analyst Youth, at

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Do you have an innovative solution to end FGM in Africa?

UNFPA ESARO has launched another exciting innovation initiative. The FGM - Stretch Hubs Hack engages incubator and accelerator Hubs across Africa to tap into their resource of innovators and innovation solutions to pitch the best solution to contribute to ending Female Genital Mutilation in Africa. Click here, if your hub is interested in applying for the FGM - Stretch Hubs Hack. 

Judging Criteria



Ensure your proposal is aligned with the sponsor's mission and meets all criteria



Great proposals will start with the right problem and address a real painpoint



Fulfill a costly need in the market and showcase your product or service differentation



Proposals must include great ideas, but also produce sustainable business value



Thoroughly research the risks and provide details on how they might be addressed



A team with relevant experience and expertise can set a proposal apart from the rest.

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