Uganda, April 2014: Commemoration of 25 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child kicks off with first ACTIVATE talk
By Charles-Martin Jjuuko
April 2014, Uganda – “The whole of my life, personality and ability have been propelled into the fascination of innovation,” says Simon Eroku, one of the champions of the innovative mobile phone based citizen participation system, U-Report. “And this is a powerful story of change I have always dreamed to tell.”
Simon, a graduate of Industrial Design with a hearing impairment and one of the champions of the innovative mobile-based system, U-Report, asserts: “This story is about how innovation and disability have interchanged to amplify the voices of the most vulnerable population in Uganda and globally.”
This was Simon’s message after a recent event organised by UNICEF Uganda to showcase innovations that are providing new opportunities and ways of changing the lives of children and young people in the country.
On February 28, Uganda became the first of many countries to host “ACTIVATE Talks” to engage people to contribute to UNICEF’s digitalState of the World’s Children 2014 Report: ‘Innovating for Children, Innovating for Equity’ to be published on 20 November, the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Over fifteen Ugandan innovations were recognized for their impact on the lives of children in Uganda while five key innovations – one for each stage of a young person’s life including pregnancy, birth, under five years of age, between 6 and 14 years of age, as well as between 15 and 24 years of age – were featured.
The five innovations featured included: Matibabu, a mobile phone application used to test for malaria in pregnant mothers and children; MobileVRS, a mobile phone birth registration system that functions via SMS messages; and The Medical Concierge, a tele-medicine service providing free information to parents on the health of their children.
Also featured were EMO, a solution which eradicates the odour in school latrines, contributing to improved school attendance and quality education for children; as well as U-Report, a mobile-phone based citizen participation system that enables young people to express their views on national and community development issues to contribute to public affairs management.
These innovations triggered discussions amongst and between the innovators, private sector representatives, government officials, civil society, diplomats and development partners about how best to improve them and scale them up for the benefit of the most deprived children across Uganda.
At the event, UNICEF said more innovative ways of thinking and working are required to meet the needs of the world’s most marginalized children.
“The world needs new ways of thinking and working to improve children’s lives”, said Ms Aida Girma, UNICEF’s Representative to Uganda. “We need innovative solutions to save more children’s lives and to help more children reach their full potential. And we need innovative solutions to reach the most excluded and vulnerable children.”
UNICEF’s Principal Advisor and Director of UNICEF’s Global Innovation Centre, Dr. Sharad Sapra, noted “Constraints give rise to creativity, so one of the efforts we are making is to identify the wealth of creativity that exists around the world, capture it and see how it can be promoted and supported to reduce children’s inequities both across and within countries.”
“All of the innovations we saw show the power of creative thinking to affect positive change in children’s lives and the communities and countries they live in,” Dr. Sapra said.
Simon Eroku agrees. And he is determined to share this inspiration with the 257,000 mainly young U-Reporters who use the innovative platform to voice the concerns of their communities.
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