Oky: Girls co-create mobile app on menstrual health
Girls in ICT Day presents an ideal moment to highlight girls and women in the information and technology space. Girls are entering this space more and more, not only in the traditional ICT field, but to find solutions to the problems they face. The period tracker app Oky is one such solution! Designed for girls by girls, Oky helps girls navigate their menstrual health and hygiene while improving their digital literacy. Oky is accessible globally, with localized versions in several countries - including Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
For this Girls in ICT Day, Munara Beknazarova, Open Line Public Fund Director and UNICEF Kyrgyzstan’s partner on the period tracker app “Oky,” sat down with app tester Takhmina Kadyrova and two of the girls who helped design the app, Nurjanat Sharshenova (age 15) and Adelya Bagyshbekova (age 18). They shared their experiences in developing the local version of Oky to meet the needs of Kyrgyz girls and young women.
Munara: How you think Oky helps other girls in Kyrgyzstan? Do you think Oky reflects the rights of girls in technology?
Adelya: Our world is evolving, and new technologies are making our lives easier. The Oky app also makes my life easier. When I went to the gynecologist, I was given a paper calendar, which is outdated, irrelevant, and easy to lose. But the application is always with you! Oky lets you describe your emotions as well as regular monthly tracking.
Munara: Why do you think we don’t talk about menstruation?
Adelya: In my understanding, there was condemnation from cultural influences we learn from our parents and elders: why do you talk about it so loudly, and in a public place? As you grow up, you understand that it is normal to talk about it as a health issue, and your mentality changes.
Nurjanat: Parents may be embarrassed to teach their children about it, but this means that children won’t have access to important information. Oky gives very complete information. Parents can download the app for their daughter for her to use and learn from on her own.
Munara: How do you think Oky can adapt or change to meet the technology and information needs of girls? For example, in regions where the Internet is weak?
Adelya: One important point is that Oky works without an internet connection.
Nurjanat: Many girls and boys in remote regions with no Internet come to Bishkek in the summer. If they learn about the app in the summer, they can download it, and later use it at home, without the Internet.
Munara: A question for Tahmina: Can you tell us about the testing process, and why you think apps like Oky help get girls into tech?
Tahmina: I really enjoyed testing Oky. I tested chatbots, encyclopedias, and avatars. I agree with the girls that the interface is very cool; what I really liked is the inclusion of our national, colorful clothes and background in addition to the huge plus of using the Kyrgyz language. We tested the Kyrgyz and Russian versions and compared them with the English version. There were no difficulties that hindered the app's usability.
Munara: Tahmina, you are from Uzgen, and you’ve graduated from university and are now an IT specialist. In Uzgen, you opened a programming school, and you are now opening similar programming schools in other regions to support online lessons for girls going into similar professions. When we [Open Line], as an organization, came to technology, I felt that we were alone. When we talk to developers, we talk like customers. We don't know how to talk like developers, and we need girls like you, Tahmina, IT specialists who can help us build tasks for developers. If we teach more girls, and if there are UNICEF programmes that involve more girls in STEM, then there will be more of us. It means that those who do not have access to information, with our help, will have more of it.
End Note: The Oky app launched locally in both Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine in February of 2023. The app can be downloaded on both the Apple and Play stores or from their website: https://okyapp.info/. Russian language is available through Oky Kyrgyzstan and soon to be available on the Global App.