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By Citizen Reporter


App takes fun approach to menstrual health

New app empowers young women to track menstrual health, combatting stigma and promoting education and well-being.

A newly launched app offers young women the opportunity to be in control of their menstrual health by allowing them to track their periods.

Launched by the New loveLife Trust (loveLife), in partnership with the United Nations International Children’s Fund (Unicef), the Oky South Africa App is a licensed version of the one developed by Unicef and which will be developed and deployed in SA by loveLife.

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The app is zero-rated, which removes any barrier to accessing services and valuable information. It was launched in English, isiZulu, Xitsonga and Afrikaans.

There are plans to add more official languages in future to ensure that all teenage girls in South Africa can optimally use the app for themselves and support their peers through it, particularly regarding menstrual health and hygiene.

Little understanding at the moment

There seems to be little understanding of menstrual health and hygiene and the kind of help girls need to understand their bodies better.

Various studies, including the one by the University of Stellenbosch in 2019, found that 30% of girls miss school when menstruating.

This results in increased absenteeism at school. Another study showed that of the 22 million South African women and girls who menstruate, 7.7 million did not have the money to buy sanitary products.

Dr Doreen Kosi, acting chief executive officer of loveLife, says: “There are continuous challenges such as the lack of access to clean and/or consistent running water and appropriate bathing facilities, which further exacerbates stigmatisation.

“Poverty in most parts of our country makes it challenging for some parents and girls to afford sanitary towels.

“Studies such as the one by MIET Africa assert that absenteeism can often be due to men ses-related pain and general feelings of being unwell, and a fear of the leakage of menstrual blood, especially when there is limited access to menstrual products.

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“The recommendations of these studies should be taken more seriously if we are to win the battle against menstrual health and hygiene,” she adds.

Globally, the Oky App has proved to be a welcome solution as it provides girls with information about their periods and is packed with relevant information.

Dr Sufang Guo, Unicef SA’s chief of health and nutrition, says: “The Oky app is so powerful because it was cocreated by girls for girls.

“This digital tool empowers girls and in turn, can have multiple positive impacts – from better physical and mental well-being to improved educational outcomes.

“The app also puts girls’ well-being at the heart of the digital health ecosystem to help break the still-existing taboo of menstruation.”

Kosi says: “The Oky app is an awesome solution. At loveLife, we encourage and support such technological interventions.”

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