June 22, 2017 |

Friday Think: There’s an emoji for just about everything, except for this…

Could having a “period emoji” on mobile devices positively impact girls’ and women’s health?
Group of adolescent females sitting outside in wooden school desks.
In a scene that repeats itself worldwide, teenagers sit outside, talk, and look at their phones. Photo: PATH/Teresa Guillien.

Emojis. You have them on your phone, your laptop, embedded into apps and platforms. These small, sometimes cute (sometimes not) ubiquitous digital icons communicate across languages on mobile devices around the world.  Recently, the international child rights organization Plan International asked a question:

What if a “period emoji” could help highlight the stigma that millions of girls and women around the world face each month during their periods?

In “Charity calls for ‘period emoji’ to address taboo of menstruation,” Lin Taylor of the Thomson Reuters Foundation tells us more about why the organization championed a public vote for a period emoji.  Here’s an excerpt:

While there are symbols for avocado, a telescope, and even a unicorn, menstruation is not represented as an ’emoji’, a small icon on smartphones and tablets commonly used to express emotions or physical things.

So the organization put five designs to the test over social media and asked followers to vote on their favorite emoji. In the end, more than 54,600 people responded by choosing the “Knickers” design.

An illustration of white underpants with two red droplets.
The “Knickers emoji.” Illustration: Plan International.

“Girls and women have told us about the embarrassment and shame they suffer when it’s their period. We need to make it easier to talk about something that is part of everyday life,” said Danny Vannucchi, Plan International’s campaigns manager. . . .

“These taboos can have a damaging impact on the lives of girls and adolescents, from missing school because they face bullying or unfair treatment to causing infections due to a lack of menstrual hygiene education and products.”

“This is a creative campaign, and another way of recognizing menstruation as a very normal subject,” says Nancy Muller, who leads PATH’s global work on menstrual health. “The bottom line is that there wouldn’t be life without menstruation! We need to turn the conversation from one of shame to one of pride and dignity.”

The last hurdle is to get the Unicode Consortium, the organization that standardizes emoji characters, to add the winning emoji to mobile devices and keyboards around the world.

To read the full article by Lin Taylor, visit Thomson Reuters Foundation.Friday Think is an occasional series on PATH blog.

During the week we scour the news for the hottest stories on innovation. Our feature, Friday Think, highlights one we’ve found particularly fascinating.

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  • Portrait of Tracy Romoser. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.
    Tracy Romoser was formerly a communications officer and the blog editor at PATH.