Women and girls will be able to use an emoji to chat about their periods from next month, which will help to end the shame around menstruation, a child rights group said on Wednesday.
Coding consortium Unicode, which distributes emojis across mobile devices, said it will include the period emoji – a drop of blood – in March, along with 58 other new symbols including ones to represent people who are deaf and mixed-race couples.
“The inclusion of an emoji … is a huge step towards normalizing periods and smashing the stigma which surrounds them,” said Lucy Russell, head of girls’ rights at Plan International UK, which has lobbied for the emoji for two years.
“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,” she said in a statement.
Menstruation is still taboo in many countries. In Nepal, the centuries-old Hindu practice of “chhaupadi”, where women are banished from their homes during their periods, has already led to four deaths in the past few weeks.
Women refer to periods using some 5,000 euphemisms, such as “on the rag” and “Bloody Mary”, a 2016 survey of 90,000 people in 190 countries found.
Plan said nearly half of 18- to 34-year-old women that it surveyed believed a period emoji would make it easier for them to overcome the embarrassment of talking about menstruation. Globally 1.25 billion women do not have access to a toilet during menstruation, according to the charity WaterAid.
The United Nations estimates that due to a lack of facilities, one in 10 girls in Africa will miss school during their period and will eventually drop out of school as a result.