As the world commemorates Menstrual Hygiene Day , on Thursday, a group of civil societies has raised concern on the stigma and practical difficulties many women and girls face in Nigeria during their periods.
At an awareness campaign, which was held at the junior secondary school, Kado-Kuchi in Abuja, the campaigners expressed frustration over the development, even as they counselled the female students on how to cope with the difficulties associated with menstruation.
The event was organised by Tabitha Cumi Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that focuses on improving the health and welfare of young girls.
They said while the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the poor access to sanitary products and heightened the levels of ‘period poverty,’ it also exposed the inadequate toilet or washing facilities across schools.
Speaking at the programme, the executive director of the foundation, Tayo Erinle, said; “The pandemic is threatening decades of progress we have made in building girls’ knowledge and providing an enabling environment for effective management of menstruation.
“Therefore on this Menstrual Hygiene Day, we are again investing in our girls by educating them with the right information on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) within the COVID-19 context and Gender Based Violence whilst providing them with the hygiene kits for dignity during menstruation.”
She said the foundation in partnership with other organisations is currently working to support those she described as marginalised adolescent girls within the Abuja neighbourhood through training of girls on the appropriate ways of managing menstruation and debunking the myths/taboos around it by providing the right information.
“We are building the capacity of guidance and counsellors to support girls on menstrual hygiene management, protecting their dignity by provision of sanitary pads and advocacy to school management to improve WASH facilities and ensure girls stay in school to complete their cycle of education.
About poverty period
Health experts describe period poverty as the period of difficulty when girls cannot afford menstrual products during menstruation.
They said such girls often resort to unhygienic practices in keeping themselves clean during their period which is said to be approximately four days every four weeks.
Menstruation, they said, is an integral part of a woman’s life but a nightmare for more than 1.2 billion women across the world who they claim do not have access to basic sanitation during their menstrual periods.
Describing menstruation as a monthly ritual, Steve Aborisade, advocacy and marketing manager, Aids Healthcare Foundation, AHF, Nigeria said majority of the country’s young girls lack access to sanitary pads “which is necessary for optimal health.”
He said; “Young girls still in schools mostly lack confidence when they do not have access to pads. Some of them also avoid schools because they do not have access to sanitary pads for their menstruation.
“Some schools also lack water and no safe place to change and dispose of their pads. So at AHF, we are trying to ensure that we provide pads for girls and also advocate to other stakeholders to see the need to make this available for our girls.”
He urged the government at all levels to understand the need that this is an area that requires urgent intervention.
“For this commemoration we are distributing over 40,000 sanitary pads and we have supported the ministry of women affairs by providing pads to reach about 1,000 girls,” Aborisade said.
Chioma Ukachi, principal community development officer, federal ministry of women affairs,said “menstrual hygiene is a way of telling our young girls and women how to manage their menstruation.
She said the ministry was collaborating with NGOs to ensure awareness creation, sensitising the public on menstrual health hygiene.”
Misconceptions, cultural beliefs
A representative of the federal ministry of health, Ike Adaeze, described misconceptions as barriers like cultural beliefs, social and religious beliefs, among others.
She said: “We discovered that some cultures recognise that whenever a child is menstruating, she is not supposed to go to school because she is perceived to be harmful to others.
“This is also applicable to women that go to work. Other misconceptions are some women not having their baths throughout their menstrual cycle. The essence is that if they bathe, it will stop the flow.
“Another one is if you wash your pant in the afternoon and anybody sees it, they will use it for magic. People also say when a lady disposes of her sanitary pad and someone gets a hold of it, it will be used for charms and it will affect the fertility of the woman. All these things are social and cultural barriers.”
Menstrual Hygiene Day
Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) is a global platform that brings together government agencies, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and the media, among others, to promote good Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).
Menstrual Hygiene Day helps to break the silence and build awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential.
The theme for this year’s celebration is; “We Need to Step up Action and Investment in Menstrual Health and Hygiene Now! #TimeforAction.”
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