Medical students at the University of Rwanda, Sylvie Uhirwa and Sylvain Muzungu Uhirwa, have developed an mHealth platform, called Tantine, to give Burundian teenagers living in the country’s refugee camps access to sexual and reproductive health information.
Teenagers can use the platform to access online reproductive health information in the Kinyarwanda language, as well as mentorship and counselling services from a team of medical professionals and psychologists working in partnership with Tantine.
The idea for the platform began in 2015 when the students visited the Mahama Refugee Camp in southern Rwanda and witnessed the hard living conditions that the 50,000 residents had to deal with on a daily basis. Some of the biggest social problems affecting the camp’s community included unwanted pregnancies, a high burden of HIV transmission and STDs.
As a solution to these issues, the visiting medical students decided to use the internet to try and help the community. Their first step was to create a Facebook group where the medical students could act as mentors to the refugee teens using smart phones and laptops provided by the camp’s administration.
Towards the end 2015, the medical students won the Youth Spark Innovation Grant, a competition that was run by The Resilient Africa Network, in collaboration with USAID and Makerere University School of Public Health. This win allowed the students to start developing their own sexual health education website.
The students gained further funding through their participation in the Innovation Accelerator competition (iAccelerator), a mentorship-driven acceleration by Imbuto Foundation and the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) in December 2016. The competition focused on finding solutions to sexual and reproductive health challenges in the country, while promoting social entrepreneurship among the youth.
In February 2017, Tantine was one of four winners of the programme who received $10,000 to further develop and expand their Tantine project in Rwanda. Through the funding, the students were able to launch an Android app and also create a dedicated space in the Mahama Refugee Camp where teens could come and access the internet and the Tantine platform via tablets and mobile phones.
Due to the project’s success, UNFPA hopes that Tantine will inspire more people to use technology to find new approaches to tackle sexual and reproductive health challenges. To date, the innovation accelerator has received 800 ideas from young people addressing sexual and reproductive health challenges across East Africa.