MCI supported the attendance of two inspiring young professionals (Dr. Ngong Jacqueline Shaka of Cameroon and Marcelline Sounnoukinny of Benin) as part of our participation at ICFP 2018 . Jacqueline and Marcelline are both keenly interested in advancing the conversation around family planning, particularly with respect to the participation of young men and women. They were part of an overwhelmingly large and engaged youth delegation at the conference that left us feeling energized and optimistic about the future, both specifically in regards to family planning as well as just generally speaking: the oft-referenced statement became, “we just need to get out of their way and let the youth take the lead!”
The Packard Foundation sponsored an innovation challenge during the conference which offered potential seed funding for new ideas around family planning. During this session, we got to roll up our sleeves and work directly with Ngong, a.k.a Dr. Jacky, on an idea she’s been developing to help Cameroonian youth access sexual and reproductive health information. The core concept created by Dr. Jacky is developing a mobile phone-based approach to delivering this critical information to youth to overcome infrastructure and security constraints in Cameroon. The near ubiquity of mobile phones also allows considerable reach across the country. As an aside, it also indicates just how thoughtful and engaged Dr. Jacky is. She consistently shared with us her desire to have a positive impact for Cameroonian youth, above and beyond her critical work as a medical doctor.
Unfortunately, the field of applicants for the challenge was large with over 400 applications submitted and Dr. Jacky’s concept was not selected for one of the prizes. Not to be deterred, we made a pact to continue to explore opportunities to expand our work with Dr. Jacky and to connect her with other organizations doing similar work. Most notably, we facilitated a conversation with FHI 360, whose M4RH program uses an SMS-based approach to communicate key reproductive health information, and YTH, whose youth-focus programming is championed by amazing and enthusiastic leadership. Combined, this burgeoning consortium ideated around how best to make Dr. Jacky’s dream a reality.
We arrived at creating a hybrid approach, expanding M4RH’s reach into the Cameroonian market by translating its existing and validated messaging into local languages, while consolidating the messaging into an app that also features interactivity to connect users to share and discuss perceptions, challenges, and opportunities around sexual reproductive health. The app will contain additional functionality (e.g., a GPS system to assist youth in accessing modern methods of family planning based on locality, an in-built ovulatory calculator, etc.) to provide even greater impact for users.
This 4-tiered approach will (1) reduce the time to market as the program has already been vetted, including a randomized trial, (2) ensure usability for those with both smart and feature phones, (3) facilitate open dialogue around sexual health, and (4) meet an identified need by the Cameroonian government to provide such educational opportunities to its youth.
Above and beyond the work to develop the app and translate the program for the Cameroonian context, the immediate challenge is, of course, funding. MCI is working closely with potential funding partners to acquire the investments needed to make Dr. Jacky’s dream a reality, but you too can help by donating to our cause. Together we can help inspired leaders like Dr. Jacky make a significant and positive impact in the world!