Sixteen million young people in Myanmar aged 10-24 are growing up in a rapidly modernizing society, where traditions and values are changing.
Young people need to be equipped to handle new challenges and to make informed life choices. But the sheer volume of information that Myanmar youth can now access online is overwhelming, and most young people do not have the skills to tell the difference between fact and fiction. At the same time, parents and teachers are often shy to talk about sexual health. Instead, young people repeat hearsay between friends, often perpetuating incorrect information and harmful practices.
To help young people learn about their bodies and to understand how to adopt a healthy lifestyle, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has introduced a mobile app with facts about love, sex and health. The app is a trusted source of information, designed to give young people the confidence to make decisions that are safe, and that they will not regret.
Privacy means no shame
Nineteen year old Myo Chit works at a sawmill in Nyaungdon in Ayeyarwady. He was one of the first to start using the app when it became available on 23 July, 2016, and he has already share the app with some of his friends.
“As a youth living in rural surroundings, it has been very difficult for me to get this kind of information. Though talking about these things is rare, I can learn some things from older people when we spend time at teashops. But it is never scientific or systematic, and no one could check whether it is correct or not. What I really like about the app is that I can find the information I need without asking parents or other adults.”
Eighteen year old university student Yadana Hlaing from Yangon also likes the privacy aspect of the app:
“We do not want to discuss our physical development and all our emotions, not even with our parents. Among friends we can talk, but it is usually a dead-end road. We want information about many things, but it is difficult to find it on the internet or on Facebook. Now, for the first time, it is all available in one place.”
Allowing young people to find out about sensitive issues confidentially, without shame or privacy concerns, is an important feature of the app. It is targeted to a wide audience in both urban and rural areas. Building on years of experience from a telephone hotline dedicated to the sexual health of young people, the mobile app takes advantage of the evolving IT landscape in Myanmar, which has brought increased internet access, more affordable smart phones, and reduced censorship.
Breaking physical and emotional taboos
The “Love question, Life answer” app breaks taboos by addressing both physical and emotional topics: Safe sex and contraceptives; early marriage and unwanted pregnancy; sexually transmitted infections and HIV; puberty and menstruation; gender and body dilemmas; drug abuse and alcohol problems; and last but not least: love and relationships.
“This application educates me in a real way. I have been using it time and time again since last Saturday when I got it installed on my phone. I am exploring it when I do not have to work. I like the section on Changes in Physical and Psychological Aspects the most. I am reading it now, and then I will take the question and answer section to test my knowledge, says Myo Chit.”
With financial support from the UNFPA Innovation Fund, the “Love Question, Life Answer” mobile app is a collaboration between UNFPA, the Ministry of Health and Sports, the Myanmar Medical Association and AFXB.