CNN produced a package of content in October 2018 tackling period poverty and the enduring stigma that’s associated with menstruation, something 1.8 billion people do regularly.
To make the issue more accessible to our audience (who may be less familiar with period poverty), CNN used data to produce an interactive calculator that allows users to see how much time they would lose if stigma, taboo and a lack of access to sanitary products caused them to miss work or school.
The calculator asks users to enter their current age, age at their first period, time between cycles, length of period and see ultimately how much time they might have to sit out if they too experienced period poverty or stigma. We wanted the experience to be accessible by everyone, not just people who menstruate, so we created more than one user journey.
At the end of the two journeys in the interactive, the user is told how many years of daily activities they’d need to sit out on if they menstruated and didn’t have access to products.
While missing a few days of work or school every month may initially not seem like a big deal, when you add up the time women spend menstruating over their lives it turns into several years.
The calculator’s primary aim was to convey the true cost of period poverty and stigma around menstruation: missing out on life.
What makes this project innovative?
Menstruation is still a taboo topic across the media. It’s often relegated to magazines or websites that traditionally cover women’s issues. Stories about periods generally don’t lead news bulletins, news websites or newspapers unless it’s a freak story of a woman dying from toxic shock syndrome. We wanted to address the issue head-on, take it out of the shadows and put it front and center on our platforms. On the day the calculator launched CNN led its international website on our package of period content. To have impact on such a challenging subject, we worked with a group of editors, designers, and developers to create an experience that would break down barriers and ensure it was approachable to everyone. In pre-production, we gamed out several different questions, scenarios and journeys; ultimately landing on the one we produced because it was the most understandable and striking. We focused on a design that uses bold, beautiful colors, engaging animation and inviting language. The short video gif was illustrated by UK-based Chinese artist Yukai Du and art directed by creative agency Studio MM. We deliberately avoided reds, pinks and purples -- colours that are all to often used in stories about periods. Because the period calculator isn’t pegged to a specific news event or story, it can be reused with future stories about menstruation across our platforms.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
The calculator is also optimised for cell phones, working seamlessly on various mobile formats and allowing users to easily share their results on social media. This immersive format drove engagement, with 93% of people who answered "yes" to the question "do you menstruate?" navigating to the last screen. 57% of people who started the calculator experience finished it. It has been used some 50,000 times and has an engagement time of more than 1.30 minutes. The top countries that have engaged with it, so far, are: the United States, India, Canada, United Kingdom and China. The calculator has also had high social impact. Some 257,000 people were reached from CNN’s Facebook pages. And it was shared on Twitter by advocacy groups and companies, including: Women Deliver, Center for Reproductive Rights, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Sustainable Health Enterprises and Thinx. After the package of content about published, we received numerous enquiries from readers -- both women and men -- asking how they could help women experiencing period poverty.
Source and methodology
We consulted several resources, including the US Health and Human Services, the NHS in the United Kingdom and the Mayo Clinic to determine the details of average menstrual cycle used in our calculations. We sketched out user journeys for various types of audiences (male, female, non-binary younger, older, post-menopausal etc.) to ensure the calculator worked for everyone. For users who do not have a period, we used averages from the above sources for age at first period, length of cycle etc.
Producers: Ivana Kottasova, Eliza Mackintosh Development: Byron Manley Animation: Yukai Du Design: Mark Oliver Art direction: Studio MM Editor: Blathnaid Healy