Uma Iyer explains how Alexa might encourage more families to have open conversations around the taboo subject of menstruation.

With an objective to get more families to have open conversations around menstruation, Amazon UK has trained its virtual assistant technology Alexa on how to give advice to manage periods.

On 23rd May, Amazon introduced an innovative initiative geared towards empowering girls in association with the Freedom4Girls charity. NHS has been long trying to extrapolate its content and aim at ending period poverty.

Amazon’s Alexa trained to offer better advice on periods. (Image Credit: Amazon)

History of menstruation education

Periods has been a long taboo discussion where boys and parents tend to get queasy when a period advertisement comes on TV. Girls are petrified of discussing periods. Culturally in India, periods or menstruation is considered impure and dirty. A recent study by the UN’s child protection agency, UNICEF, stated that 71% of adolescent girls in India remain unaware of menstruation until they get their first period.

Image Credit: Deccan Herald

The role of AI in mensturation

It is always easier to talk to someone who will not judge! Alexa has now been seen as a constant companion for the elderly. Extrapolating the view, this innovative approach allows girls and families to discreetly understand more and educate themselves. There is plenty of material available online, but it is difficult to create material enough to engage that gives direct information.

Alexa’s initiative of ‘Alexa, what is a period?‘ helps bridge precisely that.

It’s so important that teenagers and parents alike can communicate with each other properly about periods. Whether you’re embarking on your first menstrual cycle, or if you’re helping someone you know prepare for their experience. Tina Leslie– Founder of Freedom4Girls.

Many girls give up sport as soon as the periods start due to lack of information around periods. Using period cycles can be incredibly helpful to achieve peak performance.

Using AI and information and data it would really help bridge the gap and maximize human potential.

Alexa and the initiative

The research conducted with over 1000 families and questions from teenagers and parents alike have created the bank for Alexa to answer the queries without ‘freaking’ out the teens.

Popular questions include:

  • “Alexa, what is regular period pain?”
  • “Alexa, can periods affect my mental health?”
  • “Alexa, how do you use period pads?”
  • “Alexa, what is a typical age to start your period?”
  • “Alexa, what are reusable period products?”
  • “Alexa, where can I get free period products?”
  • “Alexa, are reusable period products cheaper?”

What’s next?

Snapchat AI

Tools like Snapchat give literal meaning of period and learns the context only when the word ‘menstruation’ is used.

These and many such initiatives are examples of the leverage AI and virtual assistants have on enhancing daily lives of humans. Snapchat, the popular chat device for teenagers, would be a great extension to educate the teens on mensturation! now has introduced AI which may be a great initiative!

Although the AI seems to be rather simplistic where it gave the dictionary definition of a period! Period talk may still be in a very nascent phase, period!

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Uma currently works as a delivery lead in a leading bank managing anti-money laundering projects. She started her career setting up and managing data centers and disaster recovery centers moving on to setting up niche healthcare business analysis teams. She would like to share her experiences and best practices across industries in view of a common user. The comments reflect the author's views and not the bank or Sify's.

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