Menstruation is a hush-hush subject, not only in South Africa, but also in many different societies around the world. Menstruation is largely thought to be a private issue, and this perception has been compounded by negative cultural and social attitudes toward discussion of menstruation. Many girls in South Africa miss considerable amounts of schooling due to menstruation.

During Code Camp this July, a group of Grade 10 learners in Code4CT worked to use their coding skills to create a web-based application to educate girls in South Africa about their menstrual cycles.

The team worked in collaboration with FEMME, an organisation that aims to educate and empower girls by focusing on health and sanitation. Kim Windvogel, one of the founding members of FEMME, approached one of the four Code Camp groups with a challenge: how might we help young girls understand their menstrual cycles better so that they can make more informed decisions? Over the course of the week at Code Camp, the learners developed Big Sista.

Some girls have a big sister to help them understand menstrual cycles, but many girls do not have that support system. Big Sista is a web-based application for teenage girls to better understand menstruation and their own menstrual cycles. The application can predict an individual’s menstrual period if provided with the starting days for the preceding and subsequent cycles. This tracker then explains the different cycles, so girls can understand what is normal in regards to menstruation. Big Sista features information about menstruation, advice and sanitary options, and a quiz to test knowledge of menstruation. The application also transcends the language barrier by translating the information from English to Xhosa and Afrikaans. Big Sista teaches its users about the importance of knowing their body, so that girls can say ‘yes’ to education and ‘no’ to missing school.

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Loren Loubser from FEMME responded to Big Sista: “We are very happy with the progress and beginning stages of an awesome app created for us. It will be a great benefit to see this app grow and be used for many women in South Africa and even worldwide. The Big Sista is a great app needed by many. It was also great to see how the learners had excelled and learnt so much in such a short time. The skill of coding is so vital in today’s employment options and is a great skill for young female entrepreneurs and these learners are beginning at such a young age, which is amazing. Code4CT is a great way to bring many learners of different backgrounds together to form partnerships and even future business partners.”

One of the tutors at Code Camp, Christine, shared her favorite part of Code Camp: “My favourite part of the program was watching a learner take a concept that they’ve just learnt about, running with it and then delight in the results of their experimentation. Being able to share that moment with them is amazing.”

We’re proud of the excellent work done by all team members: Amber, Amy, Cassandra, Chelsea, Jade, Monehi, Nokuzola, Nwabisa, Sanele, Sinothando, Unathi, Yolanda, Zamantungwa, Zarah

Thank you to the inspiring tutors who worked with this group: Chris, Dani, Fahmiyah, Tatenda