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KAMPALA - The United Nations Population Fund in partnership with Reach A Hand Uganda, a youth-led organization, hosted the 2017/18 Young Achievers Award winners and nominees at its offices on September 4, 2018 under the theme “Igniting Young Innovators for Social Change.”

The objective of the meet-up was to dialogue on the different ways of pushing the finalists’ innovations forward and exploring opportunities for fostering social change.

The Young Achievers Awards ceremony is an annual event that recognizes outstanding youth in the Ugandan Community that have excelled in various realms such as the Arts, Entrepreneurship, Media and Journalism, Philanthropy, Innovation, and sports among others.

“You are the heart of social change. Turn your challenges into opportunities,” Mr. Raymond Mujuni told young innovators during the meet-up. Mr. Mujuni, a journalist, won the 2018 Young Achievers Award in the Media and Journalism Excellence Category.  


Forty-five young people were nominated in this year’s Young Achievers Award event in August 2018, where nine emerged winners in different categories including innovation & ICT, performing arts, film and photography, journalism and media, philanthropy, fashion and social entrepreneurship.

At the meet-up, representatives of UN agencies, implementing partners and social entrepreneurs from different innovation hubs in Uganda were also present. Ms Stayce Nimusiima, the Growth Officer of BiD Network, an impact investment advisory that links entrepreneurs to investors commended UNFPA for organizing the meet-up so that young people are supported to get resources to scale-up and run their businesses.

One of the panelists, Mr. Solomon Opio of Outbox, advised the young innovators on how to make their projects succeed.

“It starts with understanding what these innovators want because some may not actually know what they want. We hold one on one sessions with innovators. If someone has challenges with for example business modelling, we take them through sessions.,” said Mr. Opio.

Participants were advised to continuously engage with communities to identify innovations that can solve the most pressing health challenges.

Build your alliances

In his remarks, UNFPA Uganda Country Representative, Mr. Alain Sibenaler said young people can leverage one another’s strengths in order to avoid frustrations in business.  He said the young people should be ready to embrace transformative leadership and work together to make their innovations work.

“If you look at Uganda’s youth networks, you have a lot of individuals that are very powerful, that are very experienced. But not all of them have the same level of capacity and efficiency. If you put all of them together, you can have a large source of information and knowledge to use,” Mr. Sibenaler said.

Mr. Sibenaler encouraged young people to tap into their leadership skills as well as take advantage of the interconnections in the system for social change to occur.

 “There is a dis-connect between what we call the demographic dividend and the digital dividend. On the one hand, you have a very young population. However, that’s not the population that has the power and the key to decision-making. The idea is to foster intergenerational dialogues for social change,” said Mr. Sibenaler.

The UNFPA Country representative said the innovators ought to be conscious of their environment and have the humility to start small, exercise patience and be persistent in order to grow their innovations. He cited the example of UNFPA-supported SafePal and GetIN mobile Apps, used to report cases of sexual violence and link young pregnant mothers to health services respectively.

“We have developed some Apps at UNFPA that are no yet very successful but we know they will be, in about five years. We are not looking at one or two years to be successful and you too need to take that constantly into perspective,” said Mr. Sibenaler.

Ms. Hee Sung of United Nations Capital Development Fund asked the social entrepreneurs to ensure that their innovations are commercially viable to increase their chances of getting support.

“Our mission is to catalyze investments in markets where others would not take that first risk. Our focus is to work with private companies to reduce the risk of going into new markets, introducing new products and new business models,” Ms. Hee Sung said

The key message to the young innovators was ‘there is no wealth without health’. That is why, UNFPA is using the Youth Enterprise Model (YEM) that supports the integration of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services in youth enterprises and promotion of livelihoods for out of school young people. UNFPA’s contribution is premised on the fact that sexual and reproductive health is a major facilitator for economic empowerment.

Innovation and creativity at UNFPA has been a corporate priority since 2014.

- Written by Annah Natukunda