Oky: Co-created with girls, for girls

Working to Improve Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management for Young Women and Girls

Alexandra Tyers / UNICEF EAPRO with UNICEF Innovation
User testing Oky with girls in Indonesia.
Alexandra Tyers
28 April 2020

"I want to know what to do when I get my first period and what changes to expect during puberty so I feel prepared, assured and confident to manage them.”

“I want to know if it is dangerous if I miss a period and if irregular periods are abnormal so I can stop being anxious."

Girls have important questions about their health, and every day more and more are searching online for answers. When the information they're looking for relates to menstruation — still an all-too-common taboo, despite its natural, monthly occurrence for 1.8 billion women and girls — there's a clear need for a trustworthy digital solution that helps inform and empower its users.

Enter Oky: the first period tracking app co-created with girls, for girls.

Oky provides girls with information about their periods in fun, creative and positive ways, delivered straight into their  hands through the tools they use every day — mobile phones. Available as an Android app, Oky’s features include  individualized cycle trackers and calendars, tips, and menstruation information. Oky also has some more unconventional features that are girl-centered and engaging — through Oky’s gamified design, girls can personalize the app, select and unlock their own avatars and play menstrual health quizzes. And unlike other period  trackers, which are largely tailored to Western adult women and provide information that can be gender-stereotyping or focused on fertility, Oky is:

  • Age and culturally appropriate, localized, in local languages
  • Digitally inclusive: for low connectivity/mobile literacy
  • Accessible both online and offline
  • Open source, with high data privacy and security
  • Responsible with cycle-prediction, and period and body-positive language
  • Fun, girl-centred and gamified, to drive user engagement and encourage learning.
User testing Oky with girls in Mongolia.
Alexandra Tyers
User testing Oky with girls in Mongolia.

Designing Oky with and for girls, and always keeping their needs front and centre, is central. Through extensive user-centered design,  co-creation sessions, and remote and in-person user testing, UNICEF worked with over girls in Indonesia and Mongolia — two of the most diverse countries in the region — to gather deep insights into the wants and needs of adolescent girls and their online and offline lives.  This process — which included user feedback and input at every development and design stage — informed everything from the technical specifications and features, to the app’s look and feel. 

Also central to the project is UNICEF’s deep commitment to protecting children’s online data and privacy. In a region where girls typically share phones with family members or with friends, and where data privacy risks are often gendered, data security is critical. That’s why Oky requires individual log-in information with password protection to ensure that girls can access information and track their periods privately, with their personal data only ever stored locally on their device.

The Oky App

Oky is also tailored to girls’ digital realities. The app is digitally inclusive, helping bridge digital gender gaps in countries where girls report more restricted access to technology and where network access can be limited. In an effort to reach the most girls, the app functions offline, takes 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 a read-out functionality so girls with lower levels of literacy or vision impairment can obtain reliable menstrual health information.

As a multi-country initiative — developed by UNICEF’s East Asia and Pacific Regional Office, in a collaborative effort by Gender, WASH and T4D teams, and with support from both the UNICEF Innovation Fund and Accelerate to Scale teams — Oky shows the value of a well-connected and supported innovation pipeline that builds the foundations for scaling. And as an open-source solution that can be deployed to help millions of young people and their communities, Oky is a prime example of how a Digital Public Goods ecosystem — with technologies and services equitably accessible to everyone — can greatly improve, and potentially even save, countless lives.

User testing Oky with girls in Indonesia.
NH Handayani
User testing Oky with girls in Indonesia.

What's Next?

The first iteration of Oky went live on the Google Playstore in December 2019, as a soft launch for testing and feedback in the pilot markets of Indonesia and Mongolia. The formal launch of the updated version will be in May 2020, with marketing and promotion planned in Indonesia and Mongolia and with new country versions coming in 2020, starting with Kenya.

The Oky team dreams big — envisioning a world where Oky is available in multiple markets and reaching millions of girls across the world. Where different countries have their own versions of Oky, led by implementing partners who own and host Oky in their local market. Where UNICEF’s role shifts to a supporter and facilitator, a technical advisor, a partnership broker, or a resource mobilizer. And where the Oky community grows and works together with girls and other partners across the world, to spark the girls’ digital health ecosystem, and to break the taboo of menstruation. 

"I love this app! It is so cool because I could not find an app like this for kids my age. I am a ten year old girl and find this app very informative and simple. It never glitches or lags and there are no other ads or commercials. This is a very helpful app even if you don't have your Period yet. Please continue to make more wonderful apps like this. I very much recommend it to any girl. Thank you!😄🙂👍👍🙋"

Public review on Playstore