South African rapper Sho Madjozi is tackling period stigma through a new Facebook Messenger chatbot. As part of her effort to promote open conversation about periods and menstrual hygiene products, in partnership with sanitary pad brand Stayfree from Johnson & Johnson, Madjozi launched the initiative earlier this month.
The chatbot offers girls and young women a judgement-free space to ask all their period-related questions, and have them answered by experts. Users can also listen to conversations between Madjozi and a health professional, as well as access illustrations and text conversations.
“I hope this channel will open up a space where it’s not only acceptable, but where it’s cool to discuss menstruation,” Madjozi told People magazine. “I wish I knew more about menstruation when I started. There was shame around it and there was the idea that I should already know what to do about it.”
I’m so excited about that this project is finally ready 🤗 I wanted to stop the embarrassment around periods and give information, so I teamed up with @stayfreeafrica to create #InSyncWithMadjozi. It’s a chat bot on Facebook messenger where I answer everything you want to know about periods. How cute is this ?🥰 visit @stayfreeafrica to try it #OurMove #ad
According to Bathabile Dlamini, South Africa's minister for women, approximately 7 million girls of school age in South Africa cannot afford sanitary pads, and 10% of girls in the sub-Saharan region miss school while menstruating.
“I had to learn the hard way through a lot of confusion and ruined underwear and it’s my hope for girls out there, that as they enter into this stage, they are more prepared and more comfortable with their bodies because of the information that we’re putting out there with Stayfree,” added Madjozi, who performed at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 in Johannesburg last December.
A United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) report published in 2018 showed that period stigma and misinformation increase the risk of gender discrimination, child marriage, exclusion, violence, poverty, and health complications among girls and women in East and Southern Africa.
“Something that is perpetually revealed in the research we look at is how much of a stigma still exists around menstruation,” Humza Mahomed, Stayfree brand manager, told Independent Online.
The Stayfree Facebook Messenger chatbot can help to dispel dangerous misconceptions about menstruation, the biggest one being that “it should not be spoken about,” according to Madjozi. The new feature is part of the brand’s global #OurMove menstrual health education campaign, which also includes a school program that travels to 4,000 South African schools every year.
“We really appreciate Stayfree and Sho Madjozi visiting our school because we are dealing with a situation where we have more than 10 girls asking for menstrual hygiene products every day,” Rosetta Motsoku, principal of Lofenste Girls High School in Johannesburg, told MSN after a surprise appearance from the rapper on Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28.
“Menstrual education is also very important for us because some of our girls come from child-headed homes so they don’t have anyone educating them at home, so this is a great initiative and a great way of educating them on how to take care of themselves during menstruation,” she added.
According to the World Bank, at least 500 million girls and women worldwide lack access to menstrual hygiene products, facilities, and proper health care as of last year, which threatens their education, economic stability, and dignity.
However, role models like Madjozi and initiatives like Stayfree’s #OurMove campaign that empower young girls to take charge of their lives and own their bodies are paving the way for more open conversations about periods, leading to necessary change.
“Sho Madjozi and Stayfree are a perfect partnership because Stayfree is for a carefree girl, and that’s what I am. I want to encourage other young girls to be active and confident,” Madjozi told Cosmopolitan about the collaboration in May.
“You don’t have to hide just because you are on your period.”
Disclosure: Johnson & Johnson is a parter of Global Citizen.