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Water & Sanitation

There’s Finally a Period Emoji


Why Global Citizens Should Care
No one deserves to be discriminated against because of a biological process they experience. Plan International UK fought for a period emoji to help menstruators discuss their periods and Unicode finally approved it. You can join us in taking action on this issue here.

If you’ve ever struggled to symbolize your period while typing, there’s now a reason to celebrate. The days of using the dripping syringe (which never feels quite right), are over. 

The Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit dedicated to updating the Unicode, announced on Wednesday it is releasing 59 new emoji, the BBC reports. A period emoji, represented by a drop of blood, is just one of the inclusive characters that are coming to universal keyboards by the end of 2019. The development and humanitarian organization Plan International UK campaigned for the period emoji, setting out to “bust period taboos.” The new set of characters will also include disability-themed emojis. 

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"For years we've obsessively silenced and euphemized periods," Lucy Russell, head of girls' rights and youth at Plan said

Plan launched the #periodemoji campaign in May 2017 to help people who menstruate talk about their periods openly. The organization surveyed women aged 18-34 and found two-thirds of women don’t feel comfortable discussing their period with their dad or male friends. 

The organization held a public vote on 5 different period icons, unveiling stained period underwear as the winner in June 2017. Even though more than 54,600 people voted on the character, the Unicode Consortium ultimately did not accept the initial design. Upon a second attempt, Plan UK submitted the runner up, a blood drop, and it was finally approved. 

"We should be made to talk about periods instead of hiding them away. I don’t think it’s something we should be ashamed of,” Kelsey, a 14-year-old from the UK told Plan.

Periods are not only attached to shame and stigma in the UK. People who menstruate are ostracized from basic activities, like eating certain foods, or socializing, all over the world. Menstruators are often perceived as dirty and impure –– in many cases embarrassment about the natural bodily function and lack of access to proper hygiene and sanitation can lead them to miss school and work. People living in poverty disproportionately lack menstrual hygiene access and resources to manage their periods. 

Read More: Period Poverty: Everything You Need to Know

Nearly half of the women Plan surveyed on menstruation said they would use an emoji to represent their period if one was available. The ability to discuss menstruation with pride and dignity creates a positive dialogue that is educational, promotes healthy habits, and prevents discrimination.

While there is more to be done, having a new tool to address periods brings the menstrual equity movement one step closer to ending period poverty and achieving equal access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and waste management.

"An emoji isn't going to solve this but it can help change the conversation. Ending the shame around periods begins with talking about it," Plan’s Russell said