The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Voices

flowchartMegan Henlisia, 22, is a third-year computer science student at Mount Royal University, and the creator of her menstruation app, Flowchart. The digital app will enable users to track and share menstruation cycles with others. Photo by Georgia Longphee.

As computer science student Megan Henlisia looked around her male-dominated class at Mount Royal University, she realized she needed to disrupt some antiquated ideas about menstruation with her final project.

That’s how Flowchart was born, her menstruation-tracking app that allows users to track and share their cycles with partners, physicians and anyone else who would benefit from knowing more about a woman’s cycle.

“I mean, I did it to make people uncomfortable,” says Henlisia. “But I think being uncomfortable comes from a weird place, which I wanted to change.”

With so few women in Henlisia’s computer science program, there is little understanding of gender-related issues, like menstruation. An Alberta-wide analysis of computer science enrollments at several colleges and universities showed that in 2016, the ratio of students taking one computer science course was 4000 men to 600 women, respectively.

Jordan Kidney, a computer science professor at Mount Royal University, agrees more education on menstruation is needed but adds the gender divide isn’t the only factor at play.

“People don’t want to talk about it,” he says. “It annoys me that it’s so easy for people to draw penises on everything but they won’t talk about menstruation or believe that men should learn or know anything about it. But it’s something that happens that we shouldn’t ignore.”

Henlisia agrees more education is needed. She hopes her app, which is still at the prototype phase, will help to develop new behaviour about how people talk about menstruation.

“I can’t think of a better way to let [your partner] know what’s happening with your body,” she says.

A physician's ability to track a woman's menstrual cycle can be especially important. For example, as reported on the menstruation app and website, Clue, a woman in 2017 found an ovarian tumour; the discovery was linked to her being able to track her menstruation cycle and symptoms.

As for what's next for Flowchart, Henlisia says she’s still unsure about taking the app to market. 

“I don’t know if we’ll actually launch the project, but even if the idea is out there, that’ll be good enough,” she says.

I wasn't always interested in politics. I voted for the first time when I was 18 because it was on the list of things you do when you turn 18: buy a drink at the bar, buy a pack of smokes (whether or not it's your habit), purchase a lottery ticket (whether or not you feel "lucky") and vote — even if you have no idea what’s going on. I did all of these things, including marking an ‘X’ next to a name that I had never heard before, nor cared to learn.

I'm not sure what started the political fire in my belly, but I do know it wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s. Since then, I’ve continually wanted to dive deeper and find out what it is that makes people decide on who to put their chicken-scratched 'X' beside on a ballot, especially in our digital world, where the electorate is bombarded with social media posts, videos, advertisements, articles and memes. But what is the best way for the electorate to sift through the nonsense to make a decision that they can be confident about?

We come out of high school understandably exhausted from the previous 12 years of a regimented schedule, assignments we don’t care about and topics we didn’t choose to learn. So, it’s equally understandable that voting, or politics in general, would be the last thing on our minds. But, as we enter the workforce, leaving the ease of adolescence, and into greater society, elections, policy and voting should become more important as the decisions we make as an individual end up affecting our community as a whole.

It’s 4 a.m. I don’t know the date. I barely remember where I am. Dried coffee and tea stain the inside of paper cups that are littered across a desk decorated with sheets of papers I vaguely recall receiving in class.

My eyes are droopy, my energy drained; the rest of my body feels as though I’ve been in a brawl and I was definitely not the winner. Yet, somehow, my fingers are still tapping away at the glowing keys attached to my computer, desperate to make coherent sentences appear.

I am a lot of things but a procrastinator, I am not. So why am I sitting in a pool of my own mess at this ungodly hour on a school night? The answer is quite simple: Group projects.

Travelling to new places and far off lands; it’s what I live for. Flying thousands of miles up in the clouds. Surviving out of a suitcase. Staying in hotel room after gorgeous hotel room.