By Correspondent

Menstruation is a normal process in the life of every female, yet is often shrouded in secrecy and shame, despite its monthly occurrence for 9.3 million women and girls of reproductive age in Kenya.

Girls are increasingly searching online with important questions about their menstrual health but are not always accessing the correct information.

In response to this challenge, UNICEF has launched ‘Oky Kenya’, an adapted version of the world’s first period tracker offline app, specifically designed for girls living in low- and middle-income countries such as Kenya.

UNICEF supported the adaptation of Oky to provide information about menstruation tailored to the Kenyan context, in partnership with LVCT Health, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education.

LVCT Health led the country adaptation and user design workshops with adolescent girls in western, central and coastal Kenya, and also engaged adolescent girls as key advisors, peer ambassadors and mobilizers.

“One of the main reasons girls are in search of information about menstruation is to dispel myths and misconceptions that often lead to anxiety, fear and shame,” Shaheen Nilofer, UNICEF Representative to Kenya said.

“I would like to congratulate Oky Kenya for developing an innovative app for Kenyan girls, by Kenyan girls. This will help to break barriers and empower girls to take control of their own health and ultimately life.”

Providing information about menstruation is critical for promoting gender equality and helping girls feel comfortable with the changes that they go through while still leading active lives.

In many rural settings and informal settlements, especially where there is limited clean water and sanitation, menstruation can act as a barrier to girls’ education, with girls missing school due to lack of access to sanitary products or fear of embarrassment. 

Oky Kenya provides girls with appropriate and evidence-based information about their periods in fun, creative and positive ways, delivered straight into their hands through the tools they use every day — mobile phones.

Its features include individualized period cycle trackers and calendars, tips, and menstruation information. Girls have been decision-makers in the design of this app throughout the entire design process.

To reach the most girls, the app functions offline, allowing girls to use all of Oky’s features and takes up little storage space on mobile devices; is designed to work on lower-end smartphones; is compatible with older software; and is entirely free, without advertisements. Furthering its mission to be accessible and inclusive, the app also has read-out functionality so girls with lower levels of literacy or vision impairment can obtain reliable menstrual health information.

Available for Android, Oky Kenya can be downloaded from Google Play in English and Kiswahili in Kenya. It will soon be available in iPhone and as tablet format. Oky is also being customized to other countries, including Burundi, South Africa and Tanzania.

The information provided by the Oky Kenya app helps to remove these barriers and promote gender equality in education.

This, in turn, can have a ripple effect on wider society, as educated girls and women are more likely to participate in the workforce, make informed decisions about their health, understand their options for family planning, and contribute to their communities.