Menopeer

Menopeer is a service for Japanese women experiencing menopausal symptoms. As a buddy during the menopause, menopeer helps them to get on the right track by relieving their fears and confusion.

Transformative
STUDENTS INVOLVED
Kotoko Kimura
Deepu James
ABOUT
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Challenge

In 2020, one in two women in Japan became over the age of 50. More than half of women between the ages of 36 and 55 have some form of menopausal symptoms. However, despite this fact, more than half of them do not talk to anyone or do anything about it. Moreover, menopause can have an impact on the home and the workplace. Around 21% of those who reported experiencing menopausal symptoms said they had considered resigning or taking a leave of absence.Why are so many women suffering but the problem is not recognised and nothing is being done about it in the first place?

Japanese society and menopause

One of the challenges facing Japanese society today is demographic change, decline in the birth rate and the ageing of society. As the birth rate declines, society's resources and attention are directed towards increasing the birth rate. On the other hand, an ageing population is also occurring, and similarly resources and attitudes are directed towards ageing. However, this is only the case for older people; middle-aged and older people are still perceived as being of working age and have less awareness of the challenges they face.And then there is stigma. Taboos and stigma are generally associated with menopause, so voices about menopause do not come to the surface and are not made visible.Gender inequality is also a factor. Japan ranked 120th among 156 countries in the gender gap rankings in 2021. There are few women in social decision-making positions, which creates an environment where menopausal issues are not raised.

Pain points

Through my research, I identified five pain points as below:1. Doctors also lack knowledge and training in menopause, and few can guide them properly.2. Due to this lack of knowledge, women don't realise their health problems are caused by menopause, and don’t know what to do about it. 3. Talking helps, but it’s not easy to find people to share with.4. Japanese culture and environment are part of the problemJapan has a very conservative culture, and strong gender-based social norms, which is a huge hurdle to any discussion on menopause. Patience and self-sacrifice are seen as virtues, and it is difficult to confide in others that "I'm having a hard time". 5. Aversion to gynecologist and medicinesIn Japan, the practice of having one's own gynecologist is almost non-existent. We have also found that there is a strong aversion to hormone therapy and antidepressants. So rather than resort to them, they choose to do nothing.

Solution

Menopeer has 3 mission statements. 1. We listen to her story, accompany her on her menopausal journey to guide her in the right direction2. We Provide non-medical approaches and lower the barriers to starting self-care.3. We connect her with peers to have emotional support, and inspire each other.Based on these statements, menopeer develops the following features.1. Talk: Provide place to talk and listen. You can meet with a Menopause counsellor or mentor online. Users can choose a mentor not only by the symptoms they experience, but also by the challenges they experience, such as balancing work and caregiving, or communication breakdowns between couples.2. Care: To lower the barriers to self-care, non-medical approaches such as exercise, mindfulness and diet are included in the online programme to make it easier for people to participate.3. Community :Finding peers prevents loneliness and allows you to gain inspiration from the experiences of others.

Reflections

One of the most difficult parts of the project was finding women who were willing to share their own experiences with menopause. I was surprised to find that there is still a strong stigma attached to menopause, and that many people think of it as something to be ashamed of. I'm in my 30s and I feel that women at my age are already becoming more open towards talking about women's health issues and this is resulting in more services in areas such as menstruation and fertility.Within the next 10 years (when our generation goes through menopause), I think women's attitudes towards menopause will change and there will be more open discussion. I hope these voices will be made visible and that they will lead to a change in public perception. So I think it's important we keep speaking up.

special thanks

Special thanks to all the women who shared their story with me, Dr. Koyama, the NPO and the Menopause counsellor for informing me about the current situation and issues related to menopause. And to my tutor Qian Sun for supporting and encouraging me all the time.

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