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A new period emoji won't stop stigma, but this is how it will help



Is it the ultimate period emoji? No, but it is the first (Photo: Plan UK)

We campaigned for a period and now, finally, we've got one.

The endless scroll for suitable substitutions ̵

1; the floating red orb, the exploding volcano, the japan flag – is over and now have one single emoji which can express half the global population experience every month.

Unicode – the California based organization that manages the distribution of emojis world wide – announced this week that we joint submission with NHS Blood and Transplant for a blood drop emoji was successful

The emoji, which can represent menstruation, bleeding and blood transfusion will be rolled out onto smartphone keyboards worldwide from next spring.

We couldn't be more thrilled

Harmful and pervasive cultural taboos, combined with issues around cost and access, has serious consequences.

Is it the ultimate period emoji? No, but it's the first. For an organization like Unicode to recognize that menstruation should be represented in this new global language is a huge step towards breaking down a global culture of shame around periods.

Because this is about more than amusing pictures that can liven up a WhatsApp message . Whether we like it or not, we are the fastest growing language in the world. Emojis play a crucial role in our digital and emotional vocabulary, transcending country and cultural barriers.

So, the exclusion of an emoji which represents what 800 million women are experiencing right now, in favor of more trains, goblins and dinosaurs , was another example of silencing and euphemising menstruation.

As experts in girls' rights, we know that the silence and stigma surrounding periods has a negative impact on girls. Around the world, harmful and pervasive cultural taboos, combined with issues around cost and access, have serious consequences.

In rural India, 20 per cent of girls leave school after they get their first period, and 70 per cent of girls in Malawi miss one to three school days a month due to menstruation, more than they do from malaria.

Girls around the world are missing out, they feel alienated from their bodies and they've been told to keep quiet and manage their periods in silence for too long

In the UK, our research has confirmed that young people are still dramatically ill-informed about their reproductive health. One in seven (14 per cent) girls aged 14-21 surveyed reported that they did not know when they started their period.

Girls are also experiencing health implications as a consequence – 79 per cent of girls who experience menstrual Symptoms that worry about not having consulted a doctor, primarily because of embarrassment.

Half of women aged 18-34 surveyed revealed that a period would make it easier for them to discuss their periods with friends and partners.

In an age where women routinely hide their tampons up their sleeves and feel forced to make excuses for menstrual pains, it sends a crucial message to girls and women who are normal and natural part of life

That's why we launched our campaign back in 2017 for a period emoji. More than 55,000 people from around the world called for a period of time to add to the global emoji keyboard to help break down the silence, stigma and taboos surrounding periods.

More: Google

We submitted the winning design – a pair of "period pants" – to the Unicode consortium, which was stalled at subcommittee level. So, we tried again. We teamed up with NHS Blood and Transplant to submit a multi-use blood drop emoji, and we won.

Whether or not you think you use a period emoji, the fact that it now really matters. It sends a powerful message to girls and menstruators around the world that it's ok to talk about their periods – it's not embarrassing, shameful or disgusting. Periods are normal

Anything that makes it easier for us to talk openly and honestly about periods as a society can only be a good thing.

MORE: A 'tiny penis' icon is one of 230 new emojis coming in 2019

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