Monday, July 18, 2016

Fun mobile app to dispel sexual and reproductive health myths

By Esther Nakkazi
(Written on July/22nd/2015 and first published here
A mobile application to dispel sexual and reproductive health myths won the ‘#HackForYouth’ Hackathon organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Uganda.

The 3G Tree@viQ is an incentive based mobile application, which will provide young people with information about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).

It is simple, basic, interactive and fun said Natalie Cojohari, who works with UNFPA in Moldova and was the head of the winning team at the three day Hackathon (22-23 July) held at the Sheraton in Kampala.

The hackathon followed principles of “user-centred design”, actively engaging young people in the development of solutions that are based on their real needs and experiences. It was graced by the Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN secretary General’s Envoy on youth and Chris Baryomunsi, the Uganda State Minister of Health. It attracted young people from 13 countries.

Although the winning team developed the app for especially the youth in eastern Europe, it can also be adapted elsewhere. The region is burdened by increasing rates of HIV and STIs but is also has a high mobile phone penetration with no sexuality education in school and what is available is not accurate.

Ms. Cojohari explained that there are many sexual and reproductive health myths in her region like; you cannot get pregnant if you have sex for the first time, it is safer to use two condoms, if you wash your genitals with Coca Cola after sex you will not get pregnant.

So the app will basically be a quiz based on myths and if the player wins they will be incentivised with free data, airtime or meal. Ms. Cojohari said it will increase the users self esteem and improve their knowledge on sexual and reproductive health.

At the pitching session, teams came up with innovative solutions which were interactive, informative and educative to youthful users in their privacy customised with appropriate content for particular regions that offer unconventional solutions to promote young people’s knowledge on sexual and reproductive health.

These ranged from apps that could aggregate data, offer vouchers to young pregnant girls to get SRH services, or give youth friendly messages and the ability to chat in privacy with a certified e-volunteer and an app that gives access to information to empower them against sexual harassment.

The judges said the 3G Tree@viQ was well packaged, the quiz gives the youth a challenge and since at that age, everyone wants to beat the system, it will keep them engaged and rewarded at the same time improving their knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights in their privacy.

At a time when young people are always looking for data and they want to seek for sexual and reproductive health in comfort and privacy, a mobile health solution is one way to do it. It was a fruitful event and to me all the teams were winners at least in the area of rapid innovations.

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