• $1 million commitment to build an ecosystem of linked digital solutions to address unmet demand for modern contraception
  • Digital tools, information and services will be co-created with adolescent girls and young women
  • Girl Effect and MSD for Mothers are calling for additional collaborators and investment to scale this solution across the continent
  • Commitment made as part of a Commitment to Action for Health Equity at the Clinton Global Initiative 2022 Meeting

19 September 2022 – Today at the Clinton Global Initiative 2022 Meeting, Girl Effect announced a $1 million commitment from MSD for Mothers to create a new digital ecosystem linking solutions to address unmet demand for modern contraception for adolescent girls and young women in Kenya. These new digital solutions will be co-created with girls, putting them at the center of the design and development process so that they respond to their sexual and reproductive health needs, remove cost and access barriers, and normalize conversations around family planning. Girl Effect and MSD for Mothers are seeking additional collaborators and investment to further scale this work across Africa.

This linked ecosystem will be initiated in Kenya, where adolescent girls and young women have historically not had the chance to meaningfully lead the design of sexual reproductive health (SRH) services, so that services address the barriers and challenges they face and respond to their needs. Over the next 18 months, virtual and in-person design sprints will be held with girls across Kenya to create prototypes of new digital solutions that will connect girls and young women directly to family planning services, and which have the potential to be scaled and replicated across the continent.

Jessica Posner Odede, CEO of Girl Effect, said: “Equipping girls with the resources and confidence to make life changing decisions about their own bodies, lives and economic futures is a crucial piece of the broader fight for gender equality. By focusing on girl-centered approaches, instead of relying solely on providers to make the case for family planning, we can ‘demedicalize’ and normalize conversations around family planning and place them in their appropriate context: planning for a successful future.”

Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, Lead of MSD for Mothers, said: ”We at MSD for Mothers are so proud to be part of this new collaboration with Girl Effect and to unleash the potential of a new platform to support family planning journeys that will be designed for young people, with the help of young people, and bring us all closer to more equitable futures.”

A girl-centered approach

In Kenya, systemic financial, social and cultural barriers contribute to a lack of girls’ agency to make decisions on how, where, and when they can and want to access family planning services. A national survey from 2014 found that one in four married women of reproductive age reported having an unmet need for family planning at the time, which translates into almost 2 million women today.

Myths and misinformation about family planning, alongside social norms and stigma, can limit girls’ ability to make informed choices and changes about their bodies and health. Providing equitable access to family planning is more important than ever.

At the same time, COVID-19 has accelerated investments in and uptake of telehealth services and capabilities. This has created an unprecedented opportunity to make use of a range of applications of digital technologies, such as streaming video or AI-powered chatbots, to scale high quality tele-counseling to girls in ways they find credible, trustworthy and persuasive.

With over a decade of experience in developing digital technologies to reach and empower young people, Girl Effect will bring together development experts and tech innovators while ensuring adolescents and their needs are the driving force behind the design decisions that are taken. The support from MSD for Mothers will harness the power of digital technology to unlock scalable, sustainable change, and aims to catalyze new investments that will help scale and replicate girl-centered telehealth services across the continent.

These products will be designed with girls, and for girls – investing in a new generation of digital tools that put life changing tech into girls’ hands and support their journeys into the future. For more information on the project or how to get involved, please reach out to info@girleffect.org.

About Girl Effect – Girl Effect is an international non-profit that builds media that girls want, trust and need – from chatbots to chat shows and TV dramas to tech. Reaching millions of girls across Africa and Asia, Girl Effect creates content that helps girls make choices and changes in their lives during the critical years of adolescence. By igniting their confidence to act differently at a time that can define their future, every girl can choose to be in control of her body, her health, her learning and livelihood. For more information, visit www.girleffect.org

About MSD for Mothers – MSD for Mothers is MSD’s global initiative to help create a world where no woman has to die while giving life. Applying MSD’s business and scientific resources, MSD for Mothers works with grantees and collaborators to improve the health and well-being of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the months after. MSD for Mothers is an initiative of Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ, USA. For more information, visit www.MSDforMothers.com.

About the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) – The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global and emerging leaders to create and implement solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI works with partners to drive action through its unique model. Rather than directly implementing projects, CGI facilitates action by helping members connect, collaborate, and develop Commitments to Action — new, specific, and measurable plans that address global challenges. Through CGI, the community has made more than 3,700 Commitments to Action that have made a difference in the lives of more than 435 million people in more than 180 countries.