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The power of games: Global team busts menstrual myths using educational technology

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Why is it so taboo to talk about periods? Women make up half the world’s population, everyone has a biological mother and menstruation is normal during a woman’s reproductive years. Still, the topic is often off limits.

An organization called Gaming Revolution for Inspiring Development (GRID) is working to create behavioral change through mobile phone games for people around the world. GRID’s founder Mariam Nusrat believes video games are a universal language that can be used to educate and entertain.

“These phones exist where even toilets are a luxury. They may not be your iPhone, but there are people who own a $10 phone in households where they don’t have access to a toilet,” said Nusrat.

Nusrat is a World Bank economist and said she grew up living the menstruation stigma in Pakistan. Her grandmother taught her she shouldn’t’ shower during her period, one of many myths spread around the world. In some parts of Africa, women are not allowed to milk a cow for fear they will contaminate the milk. In Nepal, women are forced to sleep in menstrual huts away from family members.

“(The myths are) very prohibitive and they’re very oppressive. They get in the way of you just living your daily lives simply because you’re on your period,” said Nusrat.

There are 5,000 words or phrases used around the world as a nickname for “period” according to Nusrat.

“The amount of creativity that goes into cementing the stigma! You have your Aunt Flo and your scarlet shower. There’s just such a bunch, right?” she said.

The game “MoHiM” which means “a movement” in Urdu. The MHM is the acronym for menstrual health management. Users select one of three languages, English, Urdu and Swahili and use a pair of underwear to catch falling pads. The more pads collected, the more keys are unlocked that open doors to bust period myths.

“SurrEndo” is about endometriosis, a disease that affects 200 million women worldwide. The game is set at a high school and teaches users how to approach and be compassionate about endometriosis.

Even in 2020, period stigma is prevalent. In places like India and Pakistan, some female students will not attend school during menstruation. This often leads to female student dropout.

In the United States, eighth graders in the Bronx broke unspoken rules and created a podcast called, “Sssh! Periods!”

The GRID games aren’t just for women and the group does more than point out periods and bust menstruation myths. It’s tackling climate change with “EarthFenders” that teaches people how and what to recycle. That game is set to be released in March.

“You’d be amazed at how many people I see standing in front of these three bins where it says “landfill,” “compost” and “recycling,” staring at what they have in their hands, ‘I don’t know where this goes!’” explained Nusrat.

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The next topic GRID plans to tackle is student debt that give the gamer a crystal ball look at the future depending on how many loans they take out and what it could mean decades down the road.

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