Kenyan health app catches UNICEF's eye and is set to reap $250k to go towards empowering African school girls

Kenyan health app caughts UNICEF's eye and is set to reap $250k to go towards empowering African girls. (Unicef USA)
  • On Monday, Duke University and UNICEF announced that Lily health has been awarded a spot in the Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator.
  •  The accelerator program aims to support social enterprises tackling the most pressing challenges facing children and youth around the world. 
  • Lily health is a digital health startup that gives over 120,000 women in Kenya their own personal health advisor via Whatsapp and Messenger.

On Monday, Duke University and UNICEF announced that Lily health, a digital health startup that gives over 120,000 women in Kenya their own personal health advisor via Whatsapp and Messenger, has been awarded a spot in the Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator.

Among many other things, the accelerator program aims to support social enterprises tackling the most pressing challenges facing children and youth around the world.

Lily health will join five other social enterprises in the Innovation Accelerator program to develop and scale innovations that are addressing menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) in East Africa and beyond.

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,” said MacGregor, Co-Founder of Lily Health.

As one of the nominees, UNICEF will pump $50-250K (Sh25 million) on expert resources for Lily health app. Through the Innovation Accelerator’s two-year program, the entrepreneurs will have access to a multitude of resources, including UNICEF subject matter experts, mentorship opportunities, Duke University faculty and students, monthly capacity building webinars, and a week-long residency at the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative (I&E).

On April 3rd this year, Duke will host a global conference of social entrepreneurs, academics, philanthropists, business leaders, activists, and students. This summit will spotlight the Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator entrepreneurs in conversation with other experts and practitioners on the front lines of social innovation and international development.

“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,” said Jon Fjeld, director of Duke’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative (I&E). “Duke has a long history of educating and supporting social entrepreneurs, and we are proud to partner with UNICEF to maximize the impact of these important social enterprises.”

The innovators’ solutions – which range from digital apps, to reusable and disposable pads, to community health models – all aim to strengthen menstrual health, hygiene, and management while tackling pervasive cultural taboos and educational barriers surrounding menstruation.

As adolescent girls enter puberty and begin to menstruate, many face challenges at school and at home that can lead to stress, shame, embarrassment, confusion, and fear. These challenges may include a lack of knowledge about menstruation, insufficient access to menstrual hygiene materials, and inadequate WASH facilities for girls so they can change in a private space and discreetly dispose of used menstrual materials.

By emphasizing local solutions and putting girls at the fore, the Innovation Accelerator cohort will collectively bring much-needed MHH solutions to girls and in turn, help empower the next generation of women to be healthy, happy, and educated.

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