The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has launched the ‘Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge’ in Pakistan, which will offer young people an opportunity to receive grants to test innovative ideas and solutions and stand a chance to win a grant of up to USD 20,000 for their initiatives. The challenge, which is taking place in collaboration with the School of Leadership, has been launched in 16 countries worldwide, and aims to provide training and employment opportunities to youth with secondary education by the year 2030.
Each participating country will focus on creating solutions that will support the three key pillars of Generation Unlimited: secondary-age education; skills for learning, employability and decent work; and empowerment, with a focus on girls.
The focus of the challenge in Pakistan is on ‘Improving Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) for women and girls, which is a key driver in supporting women’s successful participation in education and through that in the society.
The youth challenge encourages youth between the age of 14-24 to come forward to participate in this challenge and present innovative ideas and solutions to improve menstrual hygiene management for women and girls to ensure them, a better future.
A key element of cultural practices in Pakistan surrounding reproductive health, including menstruation, is the ‘culture of silence.’ Studies show that girls’ knowledge around menstruation and hygiene practices is inadequate. Teachers are often reluctant to discuss the subject leaving mothers and elder sisters as the primary source of information for girls. Unfortunately, this information is only shared after the girls have had their first period. As a result, most girls start their period’s uninformed and unprepared to deal with it.
“Proper menstrual hygiene contributes to social and economic wellbeing of girls and increases their chances of staying in school. It also contributes to achieving gender equality by allowing girls to participate in social, educational and economic activities by placing improved focus on their health and wellbeing,” said The wodros Mulugeta Water, Hygiene and Sanitation specialist from UNICEF. He added that the Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge is all about partnership with youth, government, and civil society so they can work around the challenges to empower youth and provide them with employment opportunities.
Lack of proper menstrual hygiene management undermines girls’ confidence significantly, often causing them to miss school while menstruating and sometimes even drop out permanently. The situation is largely compounded by the lack of adequate good standard facilities such as proper toilets with running water and supplies for girls to manage their menstruation with dignity and in privacy.
Ambareen Baig, Project Manager for the Youth Challenge at School of Leadership said, “School of leadership has been working on youth development for many years and we are extremely happy to be bringing this challenge to Pakistan. Winners of this challenge will engage with diverse stakeholders working on menstrual hygiene from both the public and private sector by presenting their ideas and concepts to a panel of experts and will have their ideas profiled in various social media platforms which is a huge opportunity for the youth of this country. Not only that, top 5 winners in this youth challenge in Pakistan will win a seed funding of $1000 to execute and scale their ideas.”
The challenge is open for submission until 9th of November, after which the selected participants will be invited to join boot camps to improve their ideas and apply for a final grant in the global challenge.