The 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), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) 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.

Format of Challenge

UNFPA, in partnership with WIPO, ITU and ITC, 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. ITC will support the winners with training on business competitiveness, capacity building on gender mainstreaming within business practices, and capacity building on design thinking as a tool to develop innovative and client-centered solutions.


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.

Innovation Challenge Timeline

Eligibility Criteria

The following criteria will be used in assessing eligibility of proposals submitted for consideration:



Long-listing (Expression of Interest/EOI)

 Prior to submitting an EOI, each applicant must declare the status of their Company and proposal against the below mandatory Eligibility Criteria:


  • The Company must be registered as a company/organization in a UNFPA programme country.

  • 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.

  • The solution must be implemented in the UNFPA programme country in which the Company is registered in.

  • The solution should be contributing to one of the following mandate areas of UNFPA: ending unmet need for family planning, ending preventable maternal deaths, or ending gender-based violence and harmful practices (descriptions here).

  • The Company must have already tested a prototype, have proof of concept, and have a minimum viable product (MVP) which has been piloted and is ready to be positioned to scale.

  • The 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).

  • 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. 

Less >>

Evaluation Scoring - Longlisting (Expression of Interest)

25%:  Relevance and alignment of the solution (How relevant is the solution for solving the most pressing challenges for women and girls, especially the most marginalized, in the areas of family planning, maternal health, and/or gender-based violence? What is the size of the market/reach opportunity and relevance across geographic locations, with potential for application at global scale?)


Read More >> 

Evaluation scoring - Shortlisting (Request for Proposal)

20%: Potential impact on accelerating results for women and girls (What is the number of women and girls this could potentially impact? What is the effect on closing gaps? Will the solution or its outcomes be visible/accessible to communities (is it accessible to those who need it)? Does the solution improve the quality, speed, cost, feasibility, effectiveness, and/or efficiency of services? Has the solution been developed with involvement of the intended users?)



20%: Scalability (Does the solution follow an exponential scale strategy? Does it address a problem/need common enough to be relevant enough across contexts and other locations? Can the approach be translated for other groups in different contexts? Is the solution able to use existing infrastructure and/or facilities? Is the solution designed in such a way that its core components could be easily replicated?)


20%: Process and indicators to determine success/failure (Are the KPIs selected by the applicant SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound), as per their outlined milestones? Is the methodology proposed for data collection and the feedback loop to adapt the project plan well-defined and realistic? Is there a real-time data collection plan presented, taking into account possible constraints? Does the team present means of collecting verifiable feedback from users of the solution?


20%: Team and key personnel (Does the Company demonstrate an absence of criminal record? Does the Company have strong connections with local stakeholders, including the UNFPA Country Office? Does the Company demonstrate diversity in gender and expertise? Does the Company demonstrate clear division of roles and responsibilities?)


20%: Budget (Is there an alignment of costs and overall budget with milestones outlined in the technical proposal? Are the cost estimates realistic, based on local context and competitive prices/rates? To what extent is the team leveraging existing and supplementary resources/assets/financing/funding? Does the Company have sufficient resources to sustain its operations, beyond the innovation award duration? Does the innovation investment fit within the Company’s overall strategy and financial approach?)


Less >>

Final selection (Pitch Stage)

25%: Concept and Solution (Does the Company clearly describe the concept/idea on what the challenge is and their proposed solution? Scores from EOI and RFP are also considered here.)


Read More >> 


In case of a satisfactory result from the evaluation process, the UNFPA-WIPO-ITU-ITC Joint Innovation Challenge intends to award the proposals that have obtained the top 10 highest scores. The awards will be made through their appointed representatives and consist of: 


Read More >> 

Submission of Expression of Interest (EOI)

Interested Companies that meet the eligibility criteria are required to complete and submit their response before the EOI submission deadline: 15 April 2022, 15.00 hours Copenhagen Time. If any doubts exist as to the time zone, please refer to World Clock Copenhagen Time.


Submission for this EOI should be sent through here


A response to this EOI does not automatically ensure that submitting Companies will be selected to participate in the subsequent RFP.


UNFPA reserves the right to change or cancel the requirement at any time during the EOI and/or solicitation process. UNFPA also reserves the right to require compliance with additional conditions as and when issuing the final tender/RFP document.

Any additional questions about this EOI should be submitted in writing to the contact person below:


Name of contact person at UNFPA:

Diego Bragado Zapatero


Email address of contact person:


The deadline for submission of additional questions is 17 March 2022, 13:00 Copenhagen time. Questions will be answered in writing and shared with parties as soon as possible after this deadline.