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Mobile Platform for Sex Education in Emergencies

Providing refugee women in Uganda access to information about sexual and reproductive health through a mobile platform.

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

Speaking about sex in East Africa is considered a taboo and many youths have no or little access to the information they need. Especially girls, who have been abused or raped, have often no place to get support from because they fear the stigmatization from the family and society. They often end up suffering in silence and believing that something is wrong with them while staying disempowered. Uganda has taken in over 1,000,000 refugees and runns huge refugee camps of 100,000 of people, who lack access to sexual reproductive information and women have no access to their sexual rights and how to get support in Uganda.

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

How can the already established service of 'Ask Without Shame' be extended specifically into refugee camps in Uganda? What information do refugees need in particular when it comes to their sexual rights and sex education?

Explain Your Idea

Ask Without Shame provides emergency sex education via mobile through an android app, WhatsApp, calls and SMS. Medical experts and counselors are available 24/7 to assist users with the right information regarding sexuality. Ask Without Shame launched in in Dec. 2015 and has responded to over 70,000 questions from 35,000 users. Ask Without Shame has been able to debunk myths, stop probable HIV transmissions and unwanted pregnancies. Ask Without Shame is offering sex education at the fingertips of every youth from the age of 12 to 35 years without judgment or shame. Many users share information with us they are too ashamed and afraid to share with anyone else. We will expand and adapt the successfully proven the services into the Nakivale Refugee Settlement (100,000 inhabitants) and the Bidi Bidi Refugee camp, which is currently the biggest in the world with about 300,000 people finding refuge there.

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

A young girl calls in after having been raped by what she believed was her boyfriend. She fears to tell her family or friend in fear of being rejected for having a boyfriend in the first place and for not being a virgin anymore. She does not know what to do and is devastated. The Ask Without Shame team is listening to her in empathy and able to give her specific support steps such as going to the next pharmacy to get morning after pills, helping her to evaluate if she wants to see a doctor to possibly turn down an HIV infection and gives her the facts about legal steps she could take. Ask Without Shame does not tell her what to do, but gives her the information she needs to take her own decisions to overcome the challenges she is facing.

How is your idea unique?

The founder grew up in an orphanage home in Uganda. Her parents passed away when she was young because of AIDS. Her sister developed severe skin rashes, the village believed she was possesed by demons and was taken to a witch doctor and died. She was born with HIV and could have been saved if treated by medical doctors. Ruth Nabembezi developed a frustration that people in Uganda do not have information in regards to sex and are not supposed to speak about it. While studying medicine in 2015, she started working on ideas. The lack of accurate information on sexuality was not only affecting her but also other people in different communities. Many people perceived me as wrong talking openly about it since anything related to sexuality is a taboo and is meant to be spoken behind closed doors. It motivated Ruth further and together with her team she created Ask Without Shame.

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

How many refugees have smartphones and how many own feature phones? How many languages do we need to cover to provide effective services?

Who are your end users?

Refugees from the Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp and the Nakivale Refugee Settlement.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Uganda

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

  • Prolonged displacement

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

Because of instabilities, frequent coups overthrowing governments in the region of Eastern Africa, victims and perpetrators often live side by side. The Nakivale Refugee Settlement accommodates over 70,000 people. The majority are youth with very limited possibilities to go to school or take part in informal education. The Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp is the biggest refugee camps in the world and home to 300,000 people from South Sudan. The camp is lacking basic infrastructure to cater for all.

What is your organization's name?

Ask Without Shame Social Innovation Academy (SINA) OPPORTUNIGEE

Tell us more about you.

We are a collective of three organizations: Ask Without Shame is providing emergency sex education currently to youth in Uganda. The Social Innovation Academy (SINA) is unleashing potentials of youth and refugees to become social entrepreneurs and currently scaling into the Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp. OPPORTUNIGEE is located in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement and unleashing potentials of youth in the camp to become job creators. Ask Without Shame and OPPORTUNIGEE have emerged as social enterprises out of the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) and all three are therefore tightly linked.

Organizational Characteristics

  • Women-led organization
  • Youth-led organization
  • Displaced person / refugee-led organization

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • Still in planning phase and does not exist yet

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • Yes, for more than a year.

Organization Location

Uganda: Mpigi, Kampala and Nakivale

What is your organizational status?

  • Registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Early Stage Innovation: exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.


How has your idea changed based on feedback?

We have gone into the Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp and the Nakivale Refugee Settlement to gain valuable feedback on our idea and how the emergency sex education service could be extended to serve refugee girls. We found out that the access to smartphones is limited. That is why in addition to the app, we will emphasize the toll free hotline. It will not produce any costs to the users and they can even use it borrowing someone else's phone. We will expand the team answering the questions with members speaking the local South Sudanese and Congolese languages in addition to English and French. Putting stickers in public transport had been a very effective strategy for Ask Without Shame to create awareness. In the refugee camps we will rather give out condoms (which we can get free of charge from the Government of Uganda) with packaging telling about the toll free hotline and the free service in different local languages and English. The condoms will be distributed freely.

Who will implement this idea?

Ask Without Shame: respond to the incoming messages and calls with its medical and psychologically trained experts. OPPORTUNIGEE: is located within the Nakivale Refugee Settlement. It will therefore be the point of reference and distribute condoms with information about the free service on its packaging. It will also hold sessions on Sexual Reproductive Health through creative facilitation in its learning space, whereby members from Ask Without Shame would conduct the training. Social Innovation Academy (SINA): it has currently three scholars from the Bidi Bidi refugee camp it is empowering, who will start a self-learning space (like OPPORTUNIGEE did) also in the Bidi Bidi camp. SINA will therefore be responsible to reach the Bidi Bidi camp, distribute condoms and create awareness.

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?

Ask Without Shame, SINA and OPPORTUNIGEE all work through a distributed authority approach and run on the self-organization tool "Holacracy". Buy in is not needed but roles have full autonomy to make decisions according to the purpose of the roe, which is defined by a team. This means that the individuals involved in this project will have the authority to make changes or iterations during the implementation, if they belief it is valuable or needed. This allows for continuous innovation and full empowerment of all project members.

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 our end-users face is lack of food. Since Uganda has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees within a short period, the food rations given out by the UN have been drastically cut down and reached the absolute bare minimum for survival with just a few kilos of maize and beans per month. The refugees are therefore trying to find small works they can do to earn a small income such as helping new arriving families, who might have a few dollars in construction or setting up their home on the land given to them by the Government of Uganda. Water is another big challenge, it is polluted and not safe for drinking. Many do not have the means to boil or disinfect the water and have no choice but to drink unsafe water.

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?

In 2022 all arriving refugees in Uganda are receiving free condoms along their basins, blankets, etc given by the UN and on the condom wrapper, it contains information about the free emergency health education platform they can contact anytime to get support and information. How can we partner with the Government of Uganda and the UN bodies to achieve our goal that all refugees have access to quality sexual education and anonymous support in cases of emergencies?

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

Our idea is not yet fully developed and openideo encourages an iterative approach to finding what works and what needs to be adapted to make it work. Traditional funding is often tied to the specific outcomes which had been predefined in the proposal and cannot (or hardly) be changed, even if new learning along the way indicate iterations that would create bigger impact.

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?

  • Between 1 and 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?

  • Between 5-10 paid, full-time staff

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

  • We are not currently a registered entity.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Under $50,000 USD


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