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Be Girl’s SmartCycle Menstrual Educational Tool

SmartCycle is a physical tracking tool and educational app to provide adolescent menstruation and reproductive health information.

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Tell us about your vision for this project: Share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years

By 2021, our aim is to demystify the menstrual cycle and empower girls to know how their own cycle works. In doing so, we aim to reach 1 million school-age girls in Africa and Latin America that need this knowledge to take control of their body and agency of their future.

Who will implement this idea? Or what’s your strategy to implement in the next 6-18 months?

We currently have partnerships with 3 social marketing NGO's interested in testing the SmartCycle App and Necklace, DKT Ghana, PSI Mozambique and Profamilia Colombia. By collaborating, we leverage their expertise and networks socializing/selling contraceptives to women to start testing distribute the SmartCycle along with Be Girl menstrual underwear. Be Girl Staff will be responsible for providing the products and train the partner personnel in country, while DKT, PSI and PROFAMILIA will lead the efforts of socializing and distributing the SmartCycle to the girls and boys.

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

Be Girl workshops started using bead bracelets to teach girls to count menstrual cycle, yet there was a concern that signaling girls reproductive age could make them target of sexual harassment. Also the beads system lacked the math component needed for girls to internalize the mechanics of their cycles. That is why we designed a flat pendant, easy to conceal under your clothes for privacy and with numbers and icons to help them go back an forth calculating important cycle days into the future.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

While working to make period protection radically accessible, we realized that lack of access to menstrual products was a fraction of the problem. Girls are being confined at home not only because they don’t have products. They are getting married, pregnant and growing uneducated because they don’t understand their body and the implications of their cycle. The testimonies were overwhelming, and everyone knew we needed to make education a central part of what we do.

How long have you been working on the project?

3

What year was your organization or group started?

2014

How many full time staff are needed to implement your idea?

3

What most attracted you to the UNFPA Young People's Sexual and Reproductive Health Challenge?

Be Girl was funded on the principle of democratizing design, empower women and girls with access to products that enables their capacity to archive their potential. We have a solution that is ready to be implemented at scale, we have the right partners lined-up and would be ideal to have UNFPA Innovation Fund as supporter on the implementation and any needed refinement in the future.

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Opportunity Areas – Select those that apply

  • mHealth

What specific problem(s) are you trying to address? (300 character limit)

Adolescence is a critical time in the lives of girls, and millions lack access to reproductive information, including basic facts about the biology of menstruation. This misinformation feeds stigma, limiting girls’ agency and leaving them vulnerable to unintended pregnancies and health problems.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address? (500 character limit)

We have conducted research in seven countries to study the needs, challenges, and aspirations of women and girls to identify how to best deliver products and services. Based on our research, we are confident in the SmartCycle’s potential as an educational tool. However, we do not yet know the full scope of its impact on girls' SRH knowledge and practices over time (e.g., When provided to preteen girls along with SRH education, how does the SmartCycle improve girls’ SRH outcomes as they age?)

Who are your end users? (1000 character limit)

The SmartCycle is a learning tool designed with and for adolescent girls to allow them to manage their personal sexual and reproductive health (SRH) with information and independence. Our users are girls ages 11-18 at the base of the pyramid (BOP) living in households that make less than $9 USD/day. Our design is delivered in two ways, as a mobile app or a manual clock, meaning it can be used by any girl regardless of age, location, income level, or smart phone access. Taboos and stigma can make honest and open conversations about SRH difficult, especially as preteens enter puberty. Teaching the foundations of SRH through developmentally appropriate, hands-on education will better equip girls to navigate increasingly complex SRH issues through their lives, making informed decisions that can prevent early pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections throughout later adolescence and adulthood. Education demystifies the menstrual cycle, giving girls power over their own bodies.

Explain your idea. (500 character limit)

The SmartCycle was created from the need to teach girls about their cycle when distributing another Be Girl product, our durable menstrual panties. Both the mobile app and manual tracker were designed engaging the user and incorporating their feedback. The app is dynamic and customizable, with age-appropriate content designed to educate, not just monitor fertility. The necklace is a user-friendly kinesthetic menstrual tracker designed to help girls internalize information about their own cycle.

What is your value proposition? (500 character limit)

The SmartCycle tool demystifies menstruation by coupling numbers with icons/graphics as visuals for the stages of the cycle. Either as an app or manual clock, the SmartCycle has been designed to walk a girl through the stages of her monthly cycle in a way that is simple, fun, and educational. Education empowers, better equipping girls to navigate their SRH. This tool was created to be leveraged by actors in the SRH/MHM space, giving them a platform to complement their SRH and hygiene programs.

What's different about your idea compared to current solutions? (500 character limit)

After research and multiple prototypes, the SmartCycle outperforms competitors. The app offers girls a visual journey of her cycle and gives her access to a learning center, all through a beautiful and customizable design interface. The manual tracker necklace, unlike plain beaded bracelets and similar abstract devices focused on fertility, is discrete and easy to understand with icons and numbers to reinforce the cycle’s stages, which is critical to demystifying it.

What are the key reasons why end users would turn to your organization over another?

  • Newness: Satisfying a new set of needs

What would success look like for your end users? (500 character limit)

Good SRH involves access to products to manage periods and a solid understanding of menstruation. The SmartCycle is Be Girl’s solution for the latter because: -It is user-friendly and delivers information about menstruation in a fun and interactive way. -The app and manual platforms can be used by any girl (or boy) to understand the menstrual cycle regardless of age, income level, and smart phone access. -It is designed to complement holistic SRH/MHM interventions carried out by sector expert

How would you measure the impact your idea has on your end user(s) ? How will you measure the success of your program? (500 character limit)

We define program success as high user uptake and increased user knowledge of the female reproductive cycle; we have strategies to measure both. Specifically, we strive for the following observable impacts: 1) short-term: a widespread increase of accurate SRH information and a decrease in misinformation, and 2) long-term: a reduction in early pregnancy rates among users, especially among very young adolescents, and unintended pregnancies later in life.

What strategies will/are you testing to acquire end users? (300 character limit)

We partner with pioneers who make SRH products accessible to the BOP and will use their expertise and distribution channels to deliver the SmartCycle to users. These partnerships are in 8 LATAM/African countries with DKT, Population Services Int’l (PSI), Marie Stopes, Profamilia and Palladium Group.

Key partnerships - Who will you partner with to make your idea work? (500 character limit)

We use a simple and effective partnership model to bring our products to communities where they can make the biggest difference. Be Girl has established partnerships with social marketing companies for the distribution of our menstrual panties, and we will capitalize on these relationships in Colombia, Mozambique and Ghana to start distributing the SmartCycle. Partnerships: *DKT (Ghana & Nigeria) *PSI (Mozambique, Rwanda & Kenya) *Palladium Group (Mali) *Profamilia (Colombia)

What is your organization’s name? (150 character limit)

Be Girl, Inc.

Tell us more about you: (750 character limit)

Be Girl, co-founded by an industrial designer, is the world's only global durable feminine care design company. Our human-centered approach to female empowerment makes us a disrupter. Our core competency as a social enterprise is unique: we take a holistic perspective to MHM by studying barriers to markets and technology, price, and the sociocultural/economic factors that affect MHM in different contexts.   For this program, we will partner with DKT in Ghana and PSI in Mozambique to use tested social marketing strategies to reach targeted end users. By collaborating in-country, we leverage their expertise and networks selling contraceptives to women to distribute the SmartCycle along with Be Girl menstrual underwear to our end users.

Organizational Characteristics

  • Women-led organization

Where will your idea be implemented? (200 character limit)

Mozambique, Ghana, Colombia

What do you need to get started? (500 character limit)

We have developed a near-live beta version of the app, patented and produced the necklace, and secured partnerships with social marketing organizations to assist in distribution. Our pilots for the SmartCycle have reached a total of 200 girls with the necklace. We are positioned for next steps and seek support and funding to test and monitor the digital and manual versions at a greater scale, understand the supportive systems necessary to reach scale, and acquire an evaluation partner.

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • Community - one or a few communities within one country

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organization Location (200 character limit)

Be Girl, Inc., is a global company based in Brooklyn, New York, USA.

What is your organizational status?

  • We are a registered for-profit company (including social enterprises).

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Roll-out/Ready to Scale: I have completed a pilot and am ready or in the process of expanding.

Website

www.BeGirl.org

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Photo of Gemma Cockle
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Damn, I love that idea :) I keep my fingers crossed!

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