Calendars and quizzes: how apps can help teach girls about their periods

on
30 July 2021
Girls testing the Oky app in Mongolia`
Alexandra Tyers

COVID-19 has reduced access to sanitary products and private places to manage periods. But, as we found out in a recent webinar hosted by WaterAid and UNICEF, digital platforms and campaigns are proving to be highly effective at educating people about menstrual health and hygiene – now and after the pandemic.

The gendered impacts of COVID-19 are visible all over the world. For many people who menstruate, the pandemic has changed the way they manage their menstrual health and hygiene. Lockdown measures and rising prices have caused reduced access to essentials such as sanitary products, soap and water, as well as safe access to toilets and other private spaces.

But at the same time, the pandemic has demonstrated how digital platforms can reach girls and women with critical and reliable information, both now and in a post-pandemic world. Digital platforms – such as apps, websites, videos and forums – offer opportunities to consult with girls and teach them about menstrual health and hygiene.

Oky, the period tracker app, is one such example. Currently available in Mongolia and Indonesia, Oky is the world’s first period tracker app that was created for and with girls. UNICEF consulted with girls in those countries to inform the design, features and requirements of the app. As a result, Oky provides information about menstruation in fun, creative and positive ways – straight to girls’ mobile phones. The app features individualised cycle trackers, calendars and tips, as well as some more unconventional features. Through Oky’s gamified design, girls can personalise the app, select and unlock avatars, and play menstrual health quizzes.

UNICEF-EAPRO - Oky App
UNICEF-EAPRO
Screenshots of the Oky app.

Unlike other period trackers, Oky is age and culturally appropriate: it provides locally relevant content (for example, to address specific myths, misconceptions or harmful practices) and is available in local languages. It is also designed for girls’ digital realities to include those who may have restricted access to devices or low digital literacy, and is available with or without WiFi or mobile data to cater to those who live in areas of low connectivity. To protect girls' health data, Oky has strict data protection and governance processes and is non-commercial, meaning that data is not sold for profit.

So far this app is amazing and I really trust it. If you started your period a few days ago, then this app is perfect for you! And I love how it's for kids like me. It even gives you tips and nutrition facts. You can exercise and do more things that are healthy. I got my first period over a month ago and this is really helping me.

Public review on Playstore

Combining digital and in-person campaigns has been essential during the pandemic, and has proven to be an effective way to shift norms around menstruation, and improve gender relations and access to knowledge and skills. In the Philippines, for example, the #MeronAko campaign focuses on educating learners, teachers and schools about menstrual health and hygiene. Since 2018, the campaign (which means “I have” in Tagalog) has provided a gender inclusive and interactive approach to learning, as well as the tools to help teachers facilitate lessons and include pupils. Two years after the launch of the campaign, children and teachers said they felt more confident to talk about menstruation, boys said they had a better understanding of menstrual hygiene management, and girls said they felt less shame around discussing their periods.

Consulting with girls to understand their digital realities and to create solutions with them is the foundation of good programming and technological developments in menstrual health. This experience has taught us that digital platforms can amplify the perspectives and voices of girls and women, and their experiences of menstruation. It is also an especially effective way to hear from those groups that are traditionally marginalised or excluded. Investing in safe and inclusive digital platforms for those who menstruate is fundamental in times such as these, when they are at risk of being left behind. 

– Brooke Yamakoshi is WASH Specialist, UNICEF
– Maria Dolores Picot is WASH Consultant, UNICEF
– Gerda Binder is Regional Adviser on Gender, UNICEF
– Alex Tyers-Chowdhury is Gender and Innovation specialist, UNICEF
– Chelsea Huggett is Technical Lead - Equality and Rights, WaterAid Australia

____________________________________________________________________

This topic was discussed as part of a three-part WaterAid/UNICEF webinar series around Menstrual Hygiene Day.

Webinar #1: Reaching everyone – who is left behind?
Recording | Presentations (PDF)

Webinar #2: Building knowledge and skills during the pandemic and a post-COVID world
Recording | Presentations (PDF)

Webinar #3: Stepping up action and investment in menstrual health and hygiene
Recording | Presentations (PDF)

Top image: Girls take part in user testing of the Oky app in Mongolia