Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

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This International Women’s Day, Elrha is proud to announce the successful applicants to our GBV Tech Innovation Challenge. With funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this Innovation Challenge aimed to identify and support promising tech-based interventions relevant to GBV programming within humanitarian settings. 

GBV disproportionately affects women and girls, and in situations of displacement and humanitarian crisis their risk of exposure to GBV increases. Humanitarian actors are constantly innovating to find ways that new and emerging technologies can enable earlier, faster and potentially more effective humanitarian action. Since 2015, our Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) has dedicated resources, focus and support to innovations responding to gaps identified in addressing GBV in emergencies.   

Inclusion through humanitarian innovation 

With the theme of this year’s women’s day being to inspire inclusion, we want to highlight the importance of driving forward innovations that empower women and GBV-service providers with knowledge and skills. In humanitarian settings, access to and use of tech often perpetuates and follows existing inequalities meaning the benefits are not evenly distributed, and tech can actively deepen exclusion if access isn’t considered upfront. 

To us, closing the gender digital divide in humanitarian crisis settings doesn’t just mean empowering women to use tech, but also supporting efforts in which new uses of tech are developed through ethical innovation, championing solutions that are designed safely for women, with women and, better still, by women. Accordingly, we celebrate that our new grantees include women working in tech, developing tools for frontline workers and for women, girls and other people at heightened risk of GBV, to better access services. 

Through the period of the grants, from now until May 2025, we’ll be drawing on components of our Humanitarian Innovation Guide, such as our Ethics for Humanitarian Innovation Toolkit, to provide non-financial support to grantees, and linking them to mentoring opportunities, relevant networks and publications. We’ll help our grantees to adhere to global best practices, like the Guidance on Safe and Ethical Use of Technology to Address Gender-based Violence and Harmful Practices and the emerging Digital Minimum Standards for GBV in Emergencies, which are currently being developed. Aligned to this year’s Women’s Day theme, our toolkit on Participation for Humanitarian Innovation inspires inclusion, challenging innovators to adopt an inclusion mindset throughout their innovation process.   

The new projects 

Our independent Funding Committee judged applications from a highly competitive shortlist, whittled down from over 250 expressions of interest in the challenge, and over 50 eligible project proposals. The four projects they selected were praised for strengths including empowering frontline workers, significantly improving on existing alternatives, addressing critical gaps from our 2021 Gap Analysis and having strong potential for replication and scale.  

Here are the four projects. More information on each can be found on their project pages on the Elrha website.   

British Red Cross (BRC): TechGBV – transforming GBV learning through interactive technology. In partnership with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, Danish Red Cross, and tech partner Unform Experiences, BRC are pioneering the use of Virtual Reality (VR) in training humanitarian response actors to understand GBV. The training targets non-specialists in GBV programming, and should inspire and empower them to better support GBV prevention, risk mitigation and response work.  See the project page here. 

IsraAid: AnenaSawa – a GBV SMS bot for Community Outreach Workers. IsraAid is a well-established GBV actor in South Sudan. This project will support IsraAid’s pioneering innovation AnenaSawa – an SMS-based chat-bot, for Community Outreach Workers. The chat-bot aims to provide instant support to non-GBV-specialists to take the right steps to support survivors of GBV, in their work with highly vulnerable people in camps around Juba that host internally displaced people. See the project page here 

Oxfam GB: Nawat (Seeds) Sprouting – an online platform for GBV survivors to access information and services: Oxfam is partnering with a social enterprise, Nawat Health, to provide a platform of Arabic-language information and remote service provision relating to sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and GBV. See the project page here. 

Stonewall: Power in their hands – empowering LBT+ women in Afghanistan: Stonewall, together with ILGA Asia, is developing a way of providing remote support to highly vulnerable people in Afghanistan, namely, lesbian, bisexual and trans people, and others with gender identities that place them at heightened risk (LBT+). The project will test an approach to tech-based case management offering tailored support and safety training. See the project page here. 

GBV in humanitarian settings is a life-threatening issue that disproportionately affects women and girls. It undermines dignity, causes immense pain, and is a threat to equality and development around the globe. By targeting our innovation investment towards identified gaps, we are contributing to finding solutions to complex humanitarian problems. We support our grantees to connect to the right people from across the sector of humanitarian research and innovation.

If you’d like to learn about our work and funding opportunities visit www.elrha.org to find out more.  

 

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