Fifteen-year-old Sarafina, a female student in the capital city of Liberia, had a distressing problem at school: Her math teacher refused to give her a report card unless she had sex with him.
Enter UNICEF’s U-Report, a social reporting bot that enables young people in developing countries to report issues in their community via SMS and other messaging platforms. U-Report polled 13,000 users in Liberia to ask if teachers at their schools were exchanging grades for sex. An astonishing 86 percent of reporters said yes.
Within a week of the U-Report discovery of the “Sex 4 Grades” epidemic, help hotlines around the country were inundated with reports of child abuse. Simply exposing a pervasive taboo inspired victims to speak up and reach out for help. Since then, UNICEF and Liberia’s Minister of Education have collaborated on a plan to stop the issue.
“U-Report is not just about getting questions answered, but getting answers back out,” explains Chris Fabian, co-lead of UNICEF’s Innovation Unit. “We get responses in real time to use the data for policy change.” With over 2.6 million U-Reporters worldwide and deep expertise building technology for developing economies, the U-Report team is uniquely positioned to tackle challenging social issues like violence against children, HIV/AIDs policy, climate change, and war and conflict.