PSI Pakistan celebrate “Makes Space Hackathon” with Prize Distribution ceremony

PSI Pakistan in collaboration with National Incubation Center, Karachi organized the “Make Space Hackathon” – a 48-hour long online competition. The competition began at 6:00 pm PST on Friday, 6 August 2021, and adjourned at 6:00 pm PST on Sunday, 8 August 2021.

PSI Pakistan celebrate “Makes Space Hackathon” with Prize Distribution ceremony

The aim of the competition was to empower people with a passion for impact and change in creating solutions to make Family Planning / Birth Spacing more accessible to people in Pakistan.
Reproductive health and birth spacing are some of the issues that Pakistan is facing besides the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic issues. But this is the least highlighted issue because many people find it taboo to talk about this and therefore, not many people know it could lead the country to a national crisis soon.
The Country Director of PSI Pakistan says, “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit us unexpectedly last year, it greatly increased the risks of unintended pregnancies. While the nation and our government were firefighting the pandemic, the health experts were also fearing for another crisis ahead and thus began the efforts to make reproductive health and birth spacing a part of essential service. PSI Pakistan along with its partner organizations, rolled up its sleeves to ensure that even during the strict lockdown the availability of contraceptives and family planning services could be ensured.”

(Ayesha Leghari – Country Director PSI Pakistan)

To ensure this, PSI Pakistan collaborated with NICK for the “Make Space Hackathon” to empower people with a passion for impact and change in creating solutions to improve Family planning uptake among people in Pakistan.

The hackathon was a great opportunity for students, researchers, and innovators to discuss challenges, develop unique ideas and execute them in a demanding yet stimulating environment.

Family planning/Birth spacing is a pertinent issue as it not just impacts the economy but the health of women and children.
More than 200 applications were received from all over Pakistan, out of which 45 teams were shortlisted to pitch their solution on one of the four following challenge sets:

Family Planning Awareness for Newlyweds
Counseling and Accessibility
Advocacy – Negative and Positive Advocates
Male Engagement

The competition gave a chance to all participants regardless of their age or gender and to any and all sorts of solutions as long as they cater to the chosen challenge set.

Whether it is creating an app, website, educational program, YouTube series, workshop, or more, the underlining goal should be that the solution adequately addresses the given challenge sets.

After the initial idea pitching phase, 14 teams were taken forward to the final assessment on the solution of the problem set. The top four winning teams selected by a panel of independent judges were awarded a seed grant of PKR. 575,000/=. The four winning teams were:

Bridge the Gap – PKR 300,000/=
Baithak – PKR 150,000/=
Expert Outreach – PKR 75,000/=
Team Spirit – PKR 50,000/=

The first position holder team Bridge the Gap’s idea is to launch an authentic, free, and user-friendly mobile application that consists of information on contraceptive methods for both men and women, geo-fencing of free clinics pinned in clinics section, telehealth phone numbers incorporation, and a manual on Life Skills Based Education.

The second position holder team Baithak’s idea is to develop and disseminate content to change the behavior of the masses regarding birth spacing and family planning using three powerful technologies: Ed-tech, Audible knowledge, and broadcasting it via digital and social media.

The third position holder team expert outreach’s idea is to build the capacity of the mothers who in turn will be educating the youth of the nation thus develop a self-sustaining, behavioral change communication campaign.

The fourth position holder team Spirit’s idea is to create YouTube short video series in an easy and understandable way, the videos will generate dialogue on the topic of family planning and birth spacing among the masses.

To facilitate the participants throughout the competition, National Incubation Centre also provided the sector experts and industry mentors, who were available to guide them and take them forward within 48 hours in addition to family planning experts provided to each team.

Omar Abedin the Director of NIC, Karachi shared “Population growth has become a national emergency for the country. The major objective of this project is to open a dialogue session without any restraints for the highly sensitive topic. The reason that Pakistan is struggling to demonstrate economic growth relative to neighboring countries like India and Bangladesh is mainly driven by population growth”

While shedding some light on the economic prosperity of the country, Ayesha says, “If you want a country to grow, it is important to look at the root cause, which is the population crisis.”

“Pakistan has a population of 207 million with a 2.4% population growth rate. By 2050 the population is estimated to be 300 million which is an alarming situation. 300 million inhabiting the same space and resources. With rapid urbanization, Pakistan is already facing power shortage, water scarcity, education crisis, health crises, and food security issues”, says Leghari while stating the facts about the population crisis that the country is and will be facing if we do not solve this issue.

During the Make Space Hackathon, it was reiterated by the sector experts that it is a high time to not only think about Family Planning but also take some serious action on individual and group level to make our lives better and healthier. If we do not take into consideration the intensity of this population crisis, we would end up in a situation that is beyond comprehension.

The top 10 teams were invited to the Make Space Hackathon ‘Prize distribution ceremony’ where prize money was awarded to the winning teams and invited them to share their experiences and ideas.

The pressing issues regarding Family Planning and the possible approaches to amplify the efforts were discussed. The discussion echoed that FP cannot be approached in isolation instead diverse models need to be adapted to realize the impact that is intended by the government and the Civil Society Organizations.