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Youth-Led Delivery of the Bfree Duo with Support for Improved SRH Outcomes for Adolescent Girls in Bidi Bidi & Palorinya Refugee Settlements

We aim to implement the novel Bfree Duo to help 5k+ refugee adolescent girls with menstruation and reproduction in Bidi Bidi and Palorinya.

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What specific problem(s) are you trying to address?

Children make up 62 percent of the 1.8 million people who have fled South Sudan due to armed conflict. Many of those escaping South Sudan are adolescent girls who were personally subjected to extreme violence, rape, and rape-related pregnancy. Many of these refugees now live in Ugandan refugee settlements. One such settlement is Bidi Bidi, currently the world's largest refugee camp. Many of the teenage girls lack the personal health knowledge and product support needed to protect themselves. They remain "exposed to abuse, sexual exploitation, lack of parental support, domestic violence, and child prostitution amongst other risks." (UNICEF 2017) Engagement in transactional sex further places them at higher risk of pregnancy, HIV and STIs.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address?

The complexity of the challenge keeps me up at night. We have to test our prototypes and model of delivery and iterate where necessary. We still need to test our model of delivery and test our hypothesis that by protecting the cervix with the Bfree Duo, the incidence of unplanned pregnancy, HIV infection and other STIs will be reduced. We have partners already in Uganda and hope to broaden partnerships to better ensure positive health and social impact for adolescent girls in the settlements.

Explain Your Idea

We don't presume to have all the answers but believe any action trumps inaction. We're committed to fulfilling our promise to deliver products to improve health and socioeconomic outcomes for adolescent girls globally. Over the past five years, adolescent girls living in rural areas and slums of East Africa have increasingly adopted the menstrual cup as a means to better manage their menses. Many of these same girls asked if they could use the menstrual cup as a contraceptive device. By asking this question they provided vital information sowing the seed that germinated the development of the Bfree Duo. These girls were seeking a female initiated discreet contraceptive device to help eliminate the often challenging need to negotiate use of a condom. Additionally, they sought a solution that would reduce the need for parental consent or a visit to a clinic to access contraception. Another common issue broadly communicated by adolescent girls is the fear of side effects and infertility reportedly associated with hormonal contraceptive use. We listened, are developing and want to deliver the Bfree Duo. Adolescent girls will receive comprehensive education on personal health and biology, training on product use with the provision of a Bfree Duo. The choice of whether they use it solely as a menstrual cup, as a contraceptive device or in both capacities is their own personal choice. To note, we do anticipate our plan to pivot reflecting feedback, monitoring, and evaluation data.

Name the three most important ways that your idea will address your identified problem(s).

Our solution will positively impact the lives of adolescent girls by partnering with them to be their own change agents. Girls given the tools to better manage their personal health and hygiene will experience fewer barriers to improved health and socioeconomic outcomes. We plan a youth-led program to more effectively communicate achievable goals. Our solution will:
1. empower adolescent girls with the knowledge and support to manage their own personal hygiene needs,
2. provide them with an affordable, safe, discreet and more permanent solution to manage their monthly periods and reproductive needs,
3. instill confidence to remain in school, prevent and reduce the incidence of secondary risks related to teenage pregnancy.

How is your idea unique?

Ours will be the only dual menstrual and contraceptive device available on the market especially one that may also reduce the risk of HIV, HPV and other STIs. The Bfree Duo is essentially a multi-purpose assistive and preventive technology. Evidence-based data provides the confidence we have in claiming the positive impact our product will have on the lives of adolescent girls especially those in need of a discreet, affordable, easy to use, safe, reusable, environmentally low impact solution. Our goal is bold and ambitious. The challenges we face demand bold solutions. Unless the girls are provided with an individual menstrual cup and a diaphragm or cervical cap this combination merely approximates our inclusive innovation but at a much higher cost. Ours is a game-changing positive disruptor. Additionally, we have an amazing youth-led Ugandan partner, PHAU, on board who are enthusiastic that our innovation will achieve our objective to impact and improve the lives of adolescent girls.

What are some outstanding concerns or questions that you have regarding your idea?

Approvals to import menstrual cups into Uganda has met with challenges as the Ugandan National Drug Authority (NDA) say it is not their jurisdiction. Predicates and precedents exist. Menstrual cups are already distributed by Marie Stopes in Uganda but the contraceptive aspect of the device will require a clinical trial like those conducted by FemCap and the PATH developed SILCs Diaphragm. I'm in consultation with Nancy Muller of PATH on the process they followed for product approval in Uganda.

Who are your end users?

Adolescent girls ranging in age from 13-19 living in Bidi Bid refugee settlement are our end-users. These girls are in great need of comprehensive reproductive education and provision of safe, affordable, easy to use and effective products to manage menstruation and prevent unplanned pregnancy. We hope at minimum 5k girls per year will benefit from product, knowledge, and support delivered effectively. Self-confidence is negatively affected when menstrual pads are unavailable, in short supply as they are in the refugee settlements - 3 pads per girl per month - and too expensive to purchase monthly. A high percentage of girls are reported to engage in high-risk transactional sex to buy pads often leading to pregnancy, HIV and other STIs.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Uganda

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement
  • Other

Tell us more about the emergency setting that you intend to implement in

Bidi Bidi is now host to 272k refugees and Palorinya another 162K. According to Unicef, there are almost 13,836 adolescent girls living in the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement. Our primary proposed implementation setting is Secondary Schools. UNHCR data from February 2017 estimate 4600 adolescent girls combined enrolled in secondary schools in Bidi Bidi and Palorinya Settlements. Language differences must be accounted for but interpreters were readily available during our initial assessment visits.

What is your organization's name?

Women's Global Health Innovations Corp.

Tell us more about you.

WGHI is a social enterprise with creative partner organizations in East Africa. We've been in partnership with NGOs in Uganda for over two years combined, WoMena and PHAU respectively. WoMena will carry out a trainer of trainers program utilizing their comprehensive and established education program designed specifically for Ugandan populations with cultural context integral. Public Health Ambassadors Uganda, PHAU is a youth-led organization creatively targeting menstrual and reproductive issues throughout Uganda. ZanaAfrica provides our business management oversight. I will be focused on this project full time. As a team, we are competent, experienced and highly motivated to fulfill our shared mission to improve SRH for adolescent girls.

Organizational Characteristics

  • Women-led organization
  • International/global organization

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • Regional - within countries in 1 geographic region

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • Yes, for more than a year.

Organization Location

Women's Global Health Innovations is a Canadian corporation. The research team members are currently in Canada and France. Our Implementation partners are registered and based in Uganda.

What is your organizational status?

  • Registered for-profit company, including social enterprises.

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: Tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.


How has your idea changed based on feedback?

Our marketing and branding approach changed due to feedback from the adolescent girls. We're now in communication with dkt International who primary expertise is social marketing to oversee our marketing and branding campaign. Also, feedback from the girls, Head Masters of schools, Office of the Prime Minister, UNHCR and NGO representatives strengthened our resolve to implement the Bfree Duo programme in the shortest timeline possible. Feedback honed our perspective on the logistical challenges given the isolation of the refugee settlements enforcing the importance for cyclical ideation, iteration, implementation, and testing of the product and knowledge delivery. Visiting the refugee settlements in person informed a clearer perspective on the many challenges related to distribution logistics, communication strategies, and systems designed for sustainability and continued support. We saw firsthand the evidence of the fewer spaces made available for adolescent girls to attend school.

Who will implement this idea?

This idea will be implemented in a collaborative and team effort. I will devote a full-time effort both in Canada and on the ground in Uganda. The partnership will include PHAU overseeing the Edutainment design and implementation. WoMena will initially train 20 trainers on SRH and product knowledge. Felix Mubuuke will oversee monitoring, evaluation, accountability, and learning. It is also anticipated that this partnership team will include IDEO to assist with design, prototyping, implementation, and assessment throughout the project's 18-month grant phase and hopefully beyond. Two full-time (FT) and one part-time (PT) staff will support from Canada, 1 PT in France, 3 FT with PHAU, and 3 PT with WoMena both in Uganda. Felix will consult PT from Palorinya Refugee Settlement.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

Strategic and foundational changes are anticipated especially when integrating a human-centered design approach. Currently, final decisions are made by me, the founder, but only after broad consultation with the entire team and our advisors. As a start-up company, strategies, and processes are still fluid and buy-in is made in collaborative consultation. Our shared values in regard to our mission to make a positive social impact for adolescent girls living in extreme poverty and displaced by violence, war and disaster have helped us build a strong, creative, and experienced business team with shared goals and a long view to go to scale. We anticipate challenges and welcome foundational changes necessary to unlock the potential and sustainably realize our idea, goals, and mission.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

The biggest challenge for adolescent girls is maintaining their reproductive health, accessing enough menstrual pads and discreet contraception methods. Only 3 pads are distributed to girls per month. This is far from adequate as they need at least 3 per day for often 5+ days. Most report the time spent trying to source more pads and often resorting to unsanitary solutions. Additionally, the menstrual pads chafe and the associated odor is embarrassing. The lack of facilities to dispose of the used pads is a problem. Most girls throw them in the pit latrines resulting in premature fill-up and irreparable blockages. The greatest systems-level challenge is logistics. Distribution of menstrual pads is done monthly. Accessing contraception is complex, socially and systematically challenging.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

IMPACT: By 2023, we aim to scale to reach a minimum of 25k+ adolescent girls combined in Refugee Settlements with Bfree Duos, supporting edutaining sexual and reproductive health education and training of 100 trainers in partnering NGOs to provide continued local support and increase product uptake.

QUESTION: How do we measure our model to know when and where to adjust so as to effectively, accountably, and sustainably expand to meet the needs of adolescent girls more broadly across Africa?

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

OpenIDEO's Amplify's human-centered design approach is hugely exciting, inspiring and motivating. The opportunity to collaborate with OpenIDEO's outside the proverbial box, dynamic, creative and iterative approach to solving some of the greatest global reproductive health challenges for girls 'amplifies' my enthusiasm that our programme will be validated in a shorter timeline. More traditional funding models in my experience tend to be top-down focused with end-user feedback largely neglected.

Do you intend to implement your Amplify idea in refugee camps / temporary settlements?

  • We aim to implement our Amplify idea in a refugee camp / temporary settlement.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • More than 2 years

How many of your organizations’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • No paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are a registered entity, but not in the country(ies) in which we plan to implement our idea.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000 USD

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Business Development / Partnerships Support


Join the conversation:

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Hi Leisa Hirtz and team,

An important reminder, Refinement Phase closes this Thursday, October 26 at 11:30pm PST.

We can only consider complete submissions, so please make sure that you have reviewed the Feedback and Refinement Phase Checklists and answered all of the questions on the platform. Note that we added one more multiple choice question to the end of the form.

If you're having trouble figuring out how to edit your idea, please refer to this guidance:

Best of luck!

Photo of Leisa

Thank you for the constant and continued support. And thank you for the wish of good luck!

Photo of Ashley

Great to hear Leisa!

Three quick questions:
1) You said you are not registered in country, but is your partner organization registered in Uganda?
2) You indicated no paid staff on this project, how many staff are paid at your organization and would your staffing change if you received grant funding?
3) Last question I promise, you mention, "We still need to test our model of delivery and test our hypothesis that by protecting the cervix with the Bfree Duo, the incidence of unplanned pregnancy, HIV infection and other STIs will be reduced." What's the estimated timeline for this process?

Thanks for your great engagement and sharing your work in the Challenge!

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