Why Innovate?

Innovation is vital to the state of the world’s children.Challenges have never been larger, or coming faster – urbanization, climate change, lack of employment opportunities, broken education systems, increased disparities, and digital divides.

Drawing upon leading principles for innovation and development, the Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator will cultivate ecosystems that foster and support promising innovations that address the most pressing challenges faced by children around the world.

In the Accelerator’s first cohort, we focus on supporting innovative solutions to a specific Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) issue that has an enormous impact on the lives of adolescent girls: menstrual health and hygiene (MHH).

How We See
the World

Gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty, and lack of basic services often cause girls’ and women’s menstrual health and hygiene needs to go unmet. UNICEF’s vision is a world where every girl can learn, play, and safeguard her own health without experiencing stress, shame, or barriers to information or supplies during menstruation.

UNICEF and Duke are teaming up to work toward this vision by funding and supporting ideas that can combat these barriers and set girls up for success.

Striving For
Gender Equality

Menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) is about more than just periods: it ladders up to UNICEF’s goal of gender equality, as outlined in the Gender Action Plan. Investments in adolescent girls’ well-being yield triple dividends: for those girls, the women they become, and for the next generation.

Work on female hygiene also aligns with UNICEF’s strategic plan goal of ensuring that every child lives in a safe and clean environment.

Period Progress

MHH is important for the fulfillment of girls’ and women’s rights*, a key objective of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As such, UNICEF already implemented MHH initiatives in many countries. Progress to date includes:

  • Offices in 69 countries working on MHH
  • 34 UNICEF offices prioritizing MHH
  • MHH support in over 18,000 schools in 50 countries

Through a partnership with Duke University and its Accelerator social entrepreneurs, UNICEF looks forward to expanding its reach even further.

*Not all people who menstruate are women or girls and not all women and girls menstruate, however throughout this website, the term ‘women and girls’ is used as a shorthand to increase its readability and refers to all menstruators regardless of gender identity.

The Future is Feminist

Menstrual health and hygiene is only one of many goals that will help reach lasting equality. Through the Innovation Accelerator, the Duke-UNICEF partnership will also explore exciting solutions to other problems that affect girls worldwide and contribute to the gender gap.


What might we work on next? UNICEF has prioritized the following areas:


  • Adolescent girls’ health with an emphasis on pregnancy care and prevention of HIV and HPV
  • Girls’ secondary education and skills
  • Prevention of child marriage, early unions, and gender-based violence

Partner With Us

Keep up with our Social Entrepreneurs’ progress and the impact we’re making together.