I have always believed that I am capable of providing solutions to those in need like the ones born in captivity, people living in vulnerable conditions and communities, but more so the innocent mothers and children of the land of Africa. Little did I know that this was just a dream without a plan, may be a tour with no guide? Nevertheless patience, persistence and perseverance led me to the pivot of a young and passionate innovator, “I mean the moment”.
Everything changed the day I was selected by Makerere University School of Public Health – ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) through my senior lecturer at Makerere University College of Health Sciences Department of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Robert Ssekitoleko to participate in the training of trainers of the Design Thinking (DT) course organized at the Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab in Kololo, Kampala Uganda. This is the moment where the dark turned bright so I would see my way to success.
I was not any different from all participants that day and never did I understand whatever was being discussed at once, but I cannot forget the important topical sessions on Needfinding, Problem Synthesis and Analysis, Pitching and above all Rapid Prototyping and Presentation. It was a day to discover what I was missing, and for the rest of the time I lived up to my dream.
I started identifying community problems and possible solutions to these problems, until I heard a call of mothers and children who die of obstructed labor and it consequences like Fistula which made me design FISTApp, details are shared on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Axv561Qdlig. The ability to predict and therefore prevent the occurrence of obstructed labor coupled with affordability made me think that a telephone application like FISTApp could be a viable solution for this tragedy. This was my best at that time, but a nomination in the MAK Varsity awards followed by the winning of the prestigious project of the year award together with a return air ticket to Europe by Brussels airlines was another surprise!
Two months later, I was nominated again as winner of the most Innovative Concept award 2016 in the UN Innovation Awards organized by African Biomedical Engineering Consortium and hosted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I must admit that this was more challenging, but remember I was fully prepared and had also seen enough. With God on my side, I kept on wondering on what was to come next, and after two weeks, I was invited by Oxford University (fully funded trip) to participate in the OXFID Conference, the largest student led conference in the UK (https://youtu.be/Mc7U9Sp5kTY) and also conduct consultative research in OXHUB. While in the UK, I enjoyed my stay, visited new places, made connections that would help me refine my innovation project and in fact some conference participants volunteerd to join the team on my project as we explore other possibilities of turning this innovation into a reality. It was also an opportunity to for me to closely and physical interact/engage with innovators from other parts of the world including potential partners. I have since participated in many other innovation activities that are helping to shape my project and enhance my pitching skills like the PechaKucha UNHCR Innovation Jam that took place in February 2016 at Makerere University https://www.ranlab.org/bottom-up-innovation-local-challenges-local-solutions and the RAN monthly Innovation Garages. Part of my story has also been shared in the LeO Africa Review accessed at onfile:///C:/Users/Herriet/Downloads/LeO_Africa_Review_first_edition_June_2016.pdf.
I will forever remain indebted to all of you for the rich opportunities but more to Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) for being an eye and mind opener! I am committed to working harder for and with the communities to develop more innovative solutions to address their varying challenges.