Harnessing the potential of women entrepreneurs for advancing the health and well-being of young people in Kenya

16 October 2017
UNFPA Kenya, Graca Machel Trust and Nailab sign partnership to empower women entrepreneurs. Photo by UNFPA Kenya

The Graca Machel Trust, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund and Nailab committed today to shoulder efforts in launching the IAM Accelerator 2.0 and harness the potential of women entrepreneurs for advancing the health and well-being of young people in Kenya.

When visiting Kenya in 2015, former US President Barack Obama stated: “Imagine if you have a team and don’t let half of the team play. That makes no sense,” referring to the denial of opportunities for women to fully participate in development.

This message could not have been more pertinent, coming as it did when Kenya, like most of Africa, is thinking on how to reap a ‘demographic dividend‘ - or boost in economic productivity - from its declining fertility rate and growing youthful population. This occurs if the number of people in the workforce increases relative to the number of dependents.

Nomsa Daniels, CEO of the Graca Machel Trust, stated;

“The Graca Machel Trust is delighted to team-up with UNFPA Kenya and the Nailab in making IAM 2.0 a ground-breaking success. Too many women entrepreneurs lack access to the necessary financing and support structures to let them thrive. This not only holds them back, but also the families and communities they are part of, and countries as a whole”

In June 2016, UNFPA in partnership with Nailab launched the I.AM campaign and Innovation Accelerator programme; an initiative calling on young people to realize their desire to talk about, learn and understand their sexuality and sexual reproductive health by engaging with the right sources of information in a safe and un-stigmatized environment.

Within 6 months the initiative reached close to a million young people in Kenya through social media and four startups were selected to enroll in a 4 month acceleration programme receiving seed-funding, training, coaching, and mentoring to fine-tune their innovations, bring it to market, and find the right business models to sustain and facilitate their growth. Since the innovations have been used over 350,000 times, all startups are strongly embedded in Kenya’s innovation ecosystem, and multiple startups have raised revenue and investments to catalyze their growth.

Sam Gichuru, Founder and CEO Nailab said:

“We have seen approximately 350,000 young people impacted through the solutions developed from the IAM initiative. This is barely 1% of our current youth population and it shows that we have plenty of ground yet to cover. I am pleased to see Graca Machel Trust join the initiative and it's my believe as we all join forces that we shall see greater impact as we address SRH challenges”

From the first IAM round, however, the lack of female lead start-ups and the diminished role of female participation in the start-ups and the development of innovations was evident. A 2016 study conducted by the Graca Machel Trust entitled “Growth Barriers Faced by Women Entrepreneurs in East Africa” observed a multitude of challenges for women entrepreneurs to grow their business, of which proper access to financing and training were very prevalent.

Building on the successes of the first IAM Accelerator round and drawing from this important learning, the Graca Machel Trust initiative New Faces New Voices will join UNFPA and Nailab in joining efforts to harness the potential of women entrepreneurs for advancing the health and well-being of adolescent and young people in Kenya by ensuring that throughout the design and implementation of IAM 2.0 it more and better promotes women participation and entrepreneurship; securing sufficient financing for the second round of the IAM Innovation Accelerator; and advocating for the health and well-being of young people in Kenya.

Dr. Ademola Olajide, UNFPA Representative to Kenya, stated;

“I strongly believe we now have the right mix of partners to mobilize the necessary resources, talent and expertise to launch IAM 2.0. We all are accountable for the health and well-being of women and girls in Kenya and need to make sure Kenya’s young people realize their full potential.”

For more information:

About UNFPA: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. In Kenya, UNFPA was established in 1972 and has been expanding the possibilities for women and young people to lead healthy and productive lives. Currently, UNFPA is implementing its 8th Government of Kenya – UNFPA Country Programme (2014-2018) in alignment with the Kenya United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF, 2014-2018) and in support of the Kenya Health Sector Support Project (KHSSP III)Strategic and Investment Plan (2014-2018) and Vision 2030. UNFPA does this in partnership with the Government, development partners, private sector and other key stakeholders. Visit for more information.  

About Nailab: Nailab (Nairobi Incubation Lab), a startup accelerator launched in 2011, offers an entrepreneurship program focusing on growing innovative technology-driven ideas. This is done through providing business advice, technical training, and support, professional mentoring and coaching, giving access to market and fostering strategic partnerships as well as linking them to investors.

About The Graca Machel Trust: Graça Machel is one of the world’s leading advocates for women’s and children’s rights and has been a social justice and political activist for many decades. She established the Graça Machel Trust in 2010 as a Pan-African advocacy organization focused on child health and nutrition, education, women’s economic and financial empowerment, leadership and good governance. Over the last five years, the Trust has worked to “Multiply the Faces and Amplify the Voices” of African women and children. Through our collaboration with partners, at all levels, we have helped promote and strengthen women and children’s networks to drive social and economic change.

The Graça Machel Trust acts as a catalyst, working across the continent to advocate for the protection of children’s rights and dignity and amplify women’s movements by harnessing and promoting their contributions to the economic, social and political development of Africa. We work with global, regional and local partners who are passionate about creating profound change in the issues that we focus on. Through our advocacy efforts, we seek to influence decision-makers to the change policies and practices needed to create societies that value social justice and promote and protect the rights of women and children.