Home » Human Rights » Innovating Into a Child-Friendly Future [column]

When a Zimbabwean, Dr Peter Morgan invented the Blair Toilet and the “B-type” Bush Pump nearly 40 years ago, he forever changed the landscape of rural water and sanitation in the country and indeed the continent. These two effective products were the result of an innovative idea that was conceptualised and brought to life, thus providing adequate and safe water, sanitation and hygiene to Zimbabweans.

Such ingenious ideas have changed the way we do many things daily.

For example, these ideas have also helped move society forward in the development of solutions thus improving the quality of our lives.

Similar novel ideas were on display at the recently ended “Start up Weekend” in Harare, a highly popular global showcase, where a number of Zimbabweans pitched innovative and technologically creative business ideas.

This was the country’s very first showcase of this now worldwide phenomenon.

As the world becomes increasingly smaller and interconnected through mobile and digital technology, we are being forced to change our traditional ways of thinking and adapt to new approaches and ideas.

In Africa countries like Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda are leading the way with young people coming up with innovative solutions to the continent’s problems.

This year, the world commemorates 25 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child under the theme “Promoting equity to realise rights for every child –driving innovation to reach the most vulnerable children”.

The theme confirms that the only way to aance the rights of children and women in this evolving world is to find new ways of addressing old problems.

Innovation requires that we think out of the box to find ways that enable children to have access to quality basic education, universal health care, access to safe water and adequate sanitation and hygiene and social safety nets that provide them a safe environment in which to grow and thrive.

All across the world, UNICEF is partnering with groups and organisations and taking up innovative ideas and products to find solutions to bottlenecks that impinge on the rights of children.

For example, Senegal has created a Rapid SMS Forum where community leaders such as nurses, farmers, teachers and elders can send SMS text messages to their local constituents using a “magic number”.

The “magic number” then forwards the message to all phone numbers belonging to the network. India has tackled the problem of open defecation by encouraging communities to build latrines that can be converted into biogas plants that produce methane gas from human excrement.

This Friday, UNICEF Zimbabwe will also contribute to the dialogue on innovation by holding its very first “Activate Talk” series, the second of several in Africa.

The Activate Talks, which UNICEF is organising in 25 countries globally, are bringing together innovators, experts and thought leaders to discuss and showcase local innovations that have impacted on the lives of children.

Zimbabwe has a slew of innovators who have made a lasting impact on society, especially the most vulnerable.

Along with 2013 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate winner Dr Peter Morgan, innovators participating include Nigel Mugamu, Founder of @263Chat, a vibrant and active crowd-sourcing platform which is promoting social dialogue through online social engagement, Tendekayi Katsiga of Deaftronics, who has invented a solar-powered hearing aid, Dr Sekesai Mtapuri-Zinyowera, who along with other medical practitioners is using innovative ways to promote HIV testing in pregnant women and infants exposed to HIV and Mr Mkhulumi Ndlovu who has developed a tracking system for medicines and medical supplies.

It is true that if we don’t evolve, we dissolve. Without change we remain static and die. Innovation is the engine that pushes society forward.

As we bear responsibility for our children and the generations to come, the onus is on us to find innovative ways of removing barriers and improving access.

Elizabeth B. Mupfumira is a Communications Specialist at UNICEF Zimbabwe.

Source : The Herald