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17-year-old wins African innovation contest

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Paulina Robert, a 17-year-old student from Tanzania, scooped a $500 prize from Reach for Change Africa yesterday to set up a reproductive health campaign for girls in her community.
The contest was aligned with the Day of the African Child on 16 June and challenged contestants to answer the question: “If you had $500, how would you use it to solve an issue affecting children?”
Robert will use the funds to link girls to health and legal experts who will provide answers to their questions about reproductive health as well as their rights around that topic.
Due to some social barriers, talking about reproductive health with young people – even one’s own children – is often viewed as a taboo in Tanzania, causing girls to have a lack of information about topics like pregnancy.
In her winning entry in the Reach for Change Africa contest, Robert said that she wants to empower girls between the ages of 10 and 17 with information to help curb teenage pregnancy and to help them understand their rights when it comes to topics like sexual assault.
“Through this campaign, many girls will gain the knowledge of avoiding the trap of early pregnancies, and know their rights if anyone attempts to abuse them sexually,” Robert wrote in her submission for the innovation contest on Facebook. “Moreover it will open new doors of access to education for girls who were denied their rights to education due to pregnancies.”
Robert was one of four finalists in the Reach for Change contest, with an online vote determining the winner.
The other finalists included Tofik Abdul Nasir of Ghana who proposed an event to help children discover their future career prospects and develop their talents; Haleluya Benjamin of Tanzania who wants to provide avenues for children to report unfair treatment and abuse anonymously, and to raise awareness about their issues to the public; and Stephen Katende of Uganda, who had the idea of a menstrual hygiene club to make environmentally friendly, reuseable sanitation products, and to reduce stigma by involving boys in the process.