NAIROBI, May 29 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Monday that the provision of information on menstruation is key to realizing gender equality in Kenya.
Shaheen Nilofer, the UNICEF representative in Kenya, said that once girls are informed about their menstrual cycles, they will feel comfortable with the changes that they go through while still leading active lives.
"Provision of information will help break barriers and empower girls to take control of their own health and ultimately life," Nilofer said at a briefing in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
Nilofer noted that in rural areas and urban informal settlements, where there is limited clean water and sanitation, menstruation can act as a barrier to girls' education, forcing them to miss school due to lack of access to sanitary products or fear of embarrassment.
She added that girls are in search of information about menstruation to dispel myths and misconceptions that often lead to anxiety, fear, and shame.
Nilofer regretted that menstruation is often shrouded in secrecy and shame, despite its monthly occurrence for 9.3 million women and girls of reproductive age in Kenya.
She said that UNICEF has partnered with Oky Kenya to help girls who are searching online for important information about their menstrual health but are not always accessing it.
Oky Kenya, an adapted version of the world's first-period tracker offline app, is specifically designed for girls living in low- and middle-income countries such as Kenya.
The application's features include individualized period cycle trackers and calendars, tips, and menstruation information, Nilofer said, adding that to reach many girls, the app functions offline, allowing them to use all of Oky's features and takes up little storage space on mobile devices.
Nilofer said that the application is designed to work on lower-end smartphones, is compatible with older software, and is entirely free, without advertisements.
The application that is accessible and inclusive has a read-out functionality to enable girls with lower levels of literacy or vision impairment to obtain reliable menstrual health information, Nilofer said.
Nilofer added that Oky is also being customized for other African countries, including Burundi, South Africa, and Tanzania, noting that the information provided by the Oky Kenya application helps remove these barriers and promote gender equality in education.