Oky, the world’s first period app co-created with and for girls by UNICEF, has landed in Tanzania! Oky first began in Indonesia and Mongolia in response to the need for a trustworthy digital menstrual tracking application, and first scaled beyond Asia to Kenya.
In the first cohort of the Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator (DUIA), the Kenyan-based LVCT Health, partnered with UNICEF to localize Oky to the East African context and officially launched the app country-wide in 2021. Also in DUIA’s first cohort of ground-breaking social enterprises, was Tai Tanzania, a startup that uses 3D storytelling to inspire healthy behavior change among youth. Building on the relationship that sprouted in intensive webinars and meetings in the Accelerator, LVCT, Tai TZ, and UNICEF decided to work together to get Oky into the hands of Tanzanian girls.
Oky provides girls with access to accurate information on Menstrual Health and Hygiene practices and proper management. Once downloaded, Oky can run offline, is easy to navigate by design, and includes a read-out option and visual tutorials. The app is also unique in that it allows girls who share phones, either with friends or their families, to maintain a high level of data protection and privacy. It is truly a groundbreaking innovation for girls.
Many girls and young menstruators worldwide face significant challenges in their menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) journey: from lack of access to affordable products to cultural myths and taboos to lack of accurate and accessible information. These setbacks can prevent young menstruators from attending and actively engaging in school, accessing economic opportunities, and can lead to increased gender inequality.
In response to these important MHH needs and building on early successes with Oky in other countries, UNICEF Tanzania partnered with local organizations R-Labs, Mingati, and DUIA alumni org Tai Tanzania to integrate and localize Oky for Tanzanian girls. Though Oky is readily accessible in other parts of the world, it is a novel application for Tanzania. The group embarked on a 10-day co-creation journey that led them to schools located in Dar-es-Salaam, Dodoma, Tanga, Zanzibar, and Songwe in Tanzania where they tested and refined the app for the local context. Many of these young girls rely upon traditional, non-digital methods of tracking menstruation, especially those living in rural areas where digital and menstrual health awareness can be low.
Through the iteration process, the Oky Tanzania co-creation team were introduced to the realities and needs of young menstruators in Tanzania. Menstrual misconceptions and myths, such as girls are “dirty” during their periods and need to be excluded from activities, creates a culture of fear and shame for these young girls. As they introduced the app, the Oky Tanzania team saw firsthand how these menstrual myths can run rampant when basic menstrual health knowledge is not readily available. The journey highlighted that the need for menstrual health and hygiene information is dire.
On 12th May, 2022, Oky conducted its first user testing during the Innovation Week Exhibitions in Dar es Salaam. The young menstruators introduced to the Oky Tanzania app were excited and receptive. The testing provided critical baseline research and girls provided suggestions on key illustrative and descriptive components of the app. They described the Oky app with words such as “beautiful”, “unique”, and “practical”. The app is even set to incorporate the local language, Swahili, in the design. This, and other user feedback will help calibrate the Oky app so it can be best suited for Tanzanian girls’ needs.
Together, UNICEF Tanzania, Tai Tanzania, R-Labs, and Mingati are addressing menstrual health and hygiene needs for hundreds of Tanzanian girls. The Oky Tanzanian app is for the Tanzanian girl, made by the Tanzanian girl!