‘OKY FOR YOU, OKY FOR ME’: Period tracker and menstrual health app launched in PH

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The world’s first-ever period tracker that features a girl-friendly information and gamified design to learn about menstruation and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) has been officially launched in the country.

“Oky Philippines,” the period tracker application was launched in time for the global celebration of Menstrual Hygiene Day, May 26.

Dr. Alfonso Miguel Regala of the Department of Health’s Health Promotion Bureau said the launching of Oky is timely as it complements the promotion of the Seven Healthy Habits drive, which includes sexual and reproductive health.

“The Oky app helps us provide accurate information to our adolescence, but more importantly we need to create spaces where the knowledge of these healthy behaviors are encouraged, are easier to practice,” he added.

Regala furthered that accurate information is as important as creating safe spaces to ask questions, to have discussion — sometimes difficult, but necessary discussions.

Citing the increasing incidents of adolescent pregnancy, Lolito Tacardon, Deputy Executive Director of the Commission on Population and Development, said one of the factors contributing to the “disturbing threat” is the lack of information on sexuality

As such, Tacardon said the Oky app has welcomed intervention to build the ability of girls to take good care of themselves.

“It is a potentially effective platform among girls in accessing information that is often not openly discussed at home, in school, and in society,” he explained.

According to DepEd, 8 out of 10 schools provided access to sanitary pads to girls during the school year 2020-2021 – a marked increase from 2017-2018, when only 60% of schools provided menstrual hygiene products.

While the improved access to menstrual hygiene products in schools is remarkable, menstruation and sexual reproductive health rights remain sensitive topics for discussion.

More concerning is that myths and misconceptions about menstrual health proliferate on social media – hindering girls’ access to important information critical to understanding their right to reproductive health.

As the agency’s commitment to adolescent health and development program, Tacardon said the Oky app will be integrated to the approaches to the local and community implementers.

He added that it will also be integrated to the information and service delivery network for adolescent health and development in teen hubs or teen centers in schools and community-based social and behavioral change communication strategies.

Meanwhile, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Deputy Representative Behzad Noubary said Oky is designed to be lightweight and suitable for low-end phones.

Young people in remote areas facing connectivity challenges can also access the app since it can be used offline once downloaded according to Noubary.

The global app has been localized in the Philippines through a partnership between UNICEF, Plan International, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Regional Government.

Initially endorsed by the BARMM government in Cotabato City in March of this year, the app’s localization is made possible with the support of the Australian Government as part of its AUD 48 million Indo-Pacific SRHR COVID-19 Response Program. This program extends assistance to countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.

Made available for download from the Google Play Store since March 16, Oky Philippines features individualized cycle trackers and calendars, tips, and menstruation information, among others.

The Oky Philippines app was developed based on Oky, the world’s first menstruation education and period tracker app co-created by UNICEF with girls for girls. The app, supported by the Australian Government, is a joint product of DepEd, DOH, POPCOM, NYC, and UNICEF Philippines, in partnership with Plan International. In localizing the app, the team consulted with girls living in different contexts in the Philippines, including indigenous peoples, out-of-school children, and children with disabilities. The results from the talks underwent vetting by adolescent health experts from government agencies and development organizations. Oky Philippines also includes content relevant to the Islamic culture, co-created with adolescents in the Bangsamoro Region.

The Oky Philippines is a new platform for adolescents, which will be deployed through existing government programs such as DepEd’s Comprehensive Sexual Education and the WASH in Schools programs and the joint campaign “I CHOOSE #MalayaAkongMaging” led by DOH and POPCOM. Moreover, sexual reproductive health is one of the seven priority areas of the DOH campaign “Health is Life,” which focuses on health promotion to improve health outcomes. The Oky app is also consistent with NYC’s Philippine Youth Development Plan for Health.

The Australian Government supports the localization of the app in the Philippines as part of its AUD 48-million Indo-Pacific Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights COVID-19 Surge Response. The program supports the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.

Oky Philippines is free to download from Google Play Store. The app will be available in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.