On March 19, four innovative solutions that promote sexual reproductive health and mental health were awarded a $10,000 cash prize each by Imbuto Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Culture, UNFPA and KOICA. The prizes are part of Innovation Accelerator programme (iAccelerator) phase III, a mentorship-driven acceleration programme, supporting young entrepreneurs with seed funding, training and skills development to generate innovative solutions in response to challenges related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, sexuality education, family planning, maternal health, mental health and other population development issues. The four winners of the programme shared with The New Times the inspiration behind their projects and lessons learned from the program. Charline Mugeniwayezu and Marie-Odile Ndayishimiye Uwineza (Ubumuntu Organisation) We have been friends since childhood and together we have done several projects within our neighbourhood. After we graduated, we thought of creating a bigger impact to vulnerable Rwandans. In 2019, when they had just released statistics on the poorest districts, we decided to save money and help these areas. Our first thought was to support teen mothers from the poorest districts like Burera, because they deal with depression caused by stigma. Working with several districts, we shared our ideas with some people and one of them shared the iAccelatror project and we applied. The competition taught us that teamwork is key. We missed the first day of boot camp, but the other contestants taught us what we missed. Also, we are not the first people to come up with a project like this, there are so many others before us who we hope will guide us throughout the project. The prize money will help kick start our project of availing #SRH and Mental health information and services to the youth, through fun activities including handcrafts, baking, and jewelry making to improve the livelihoods of teen mothers and restore their hope for the future. Josiane Umurerwa and Dan Hirwa Ubaruta (Mizero Care Organisation) Through our organization we came up with an online counselling hotline center called “VUGUKIRE that will enable users to get help from medical facilities and counsellors about their #MentalHealth problems, which is supposed to be done in confidentiality and safe space. What inspired this solution is the fact that some survivors still deal with traumas caused by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. We also have a high number of people with other mental health problems, heightened by the effects of Covid-19. One of the activities of our organisation was group counseling where we gathered people to share their problems freely. So far we are working with three clinical psychologists and a psychiatrist In 2017 we were awarded the Celebrating Young Rwandan Achievers (CYRWA) Awards by the First Lady inspired us to reach out to more people and we have expanded our organization since. At the iAccelerator competition, I thought the boot camp was going to be fun but it was far from that, especially when it came to financial planning and projection. My best part however, was the presentation because I am a public speaker. In the end, all the tough lessons were worth it because with the knowledge we were able to come up with a business plan with the hope that we would gain the jury’s trust and give them reason to support youth in the future. We were so excited when we were announced among the winners because Mizero Care Organisation was a non-for-profit organization but with the money we will be able to expand it and make profit. Emmanuel Habiyambere and Oreste Hafishimana (Menya Wirinde) Menya Wirinde is a Rwandan film project divided into episodes that teach about reproductive health. The idea came about when Imbuto Foundation was promoting awareness on sexual and reproductive education through peer education. Since high school, acting has been our passion, but we realised that in Rwanda there are several drama films and comedy that people love and no films that educate reproductive health that young people can watch in their free time. Our friends, after a lot of convincing, welcomed the idea and with the few equipment available we started our project and the film has had good reception from Rwandans. At the boot camp, we learned that fame was not enough but that we needed to come up with a package that would teach Rwandans and also bring us profit. The prize money is going to ease our work and expand our project by facilitating us with bigger and better equipment. Aimee Laeticia Umubyeyi, (Urujeni) I am the founder of Umubyeyi Initiative that is implementing ‘Urujeni’. My project began in 2017, helping vulnerable women in rural areas, and I was also among the CYRWA awardees. It was based in Kirehe District because I was born and raised there and is among the areas that deals with harsh climate patterns which affects their harvest. I chose to work with women because they are affected the most in the families which is why they are usually the ones begging. After I was awarded I wanted to do something bigger so I began working as an NGO with legal status. I taught the women how to save and borrow money from their cooperative which they grew and recently they started making soap and body oil which is now on the market. I later came up with the Urujeni project, an education and awareness programme aimed at the dissemination of #SRH information among persons with disabilities, across the country. It was inspired by the fact that 20 per cent of teenage girls that get pregnant are 12 years and younger and are too young to make independent decisions. I believe that with the use of social media we can disseminate more information on sexual and reproductive rights and with the prize money I will set up a website to continue spreading information to both parents and children, and to all the concerned people.