How school-based programme improves female hygiene in Northern Nigeria

Female students used to illustrate the story. [Photo credit: EduCeleb]

Hadiza Isah is a class 6 pupil of Tudunwada Model Primary School, Tsakuwa in Talata Marafa Local Government Area of Zamfara State.

She proudly told how her personal hygiene has improved in the past few months.

Hadizah said she began to feel the improvement, especially during her menstrual period, after the introduction of the Girls for Girls initiative (G4G) to her community.

The G4G initiative is a component of the Girls’ Education Project Phase 3 (GEP3) launched by UNICEF in 2017. It is being implemented in Northern Nigeria under a collaboration between the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nigeria and the federal government with funding from UKAid.

The initiative seeks to empower girls with information and knowledge to help build their capacity to stand up for themselves, help put one million girls in school, support them to remain in school and improve their learning achievement.

States benefiting from this project are Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Bauchi and Niger.

According to 12-year old Hadizah, the G4G initiative has taught her, other girls and mothers various skills from which they now make money. More significantly, It has also taught them how to make reusable pads.

“During one of our classes, we were taught how to make pads which can be reused. Before then, I put any rag I find in my pant when my period comes. This rag absorbs the blood for some time and later stains my pants. Also, the rag sometimes almost fall off when it is too soaked.

“I made three pads during the training, which I now use during my menstrual period. After using one, I wash the pad and spread it under the sun because we were told it helps kill the germs. Then I take my bath and use another pad. After the entire period, I put the pads together into a bag to keep them safe and away from germs until my next menstruation.

“I have also made more pads aside the ones I made during the training. So I now have more pads to use. The pad has a pin that I hook to my pant, this stops it from falling off unlike the rags I used before. My G4G mentors and teachers told me the importance of good hygiene,” the preteen said to PREMIUM TIMES.

Aina’u Attahiru, an 11-year old pupil of Nizzaniya Primary School, Anka in Zamfara also said the G4G programme has impacted her life, as well as those of her siblings and mother.

Aina’u, the ninth child in a family of 19, said “The programme has taught me a lot educationally and it has helped me improve my personal hygiene.

“Before this programme, I used charcoal and sometimes chewing stick to brush my teeth. But since I started engaging in G4G activities, I use brush and tooth paste. I also have my bath three times daily, that is before school, after school and when the weather is not good, I have my bath at night.

“Another thing I do regularly is hand washing. I wash my hands before eating, after eating and after using the toilet. I also wash my hands after cleaning the buttocks of my younger ones. I am always the neatest among my friends. They do not know a lot of things that I know, but I try to teach them the importance of keeping yourself clean as a girl,” she said.

Before the introduction of reusable pads to these rural communities, many girls and women, who cannot afford sanitary pads, used pieces of rags instead.

These rags, most times are not neatly kept, thus giving access to germs which in turn cause infections for the women.

A 14-year-old, Fatima Mohammed, in class 6, said G4G has improved her self confidence, cleanliness and also the zeal to further her education.

“At first, I was reluctant about partaking in the programme but I realised my friend acquired some skills through the programme. So I decided to join. I have learnt how to make beads, reusable pads which keep me clean and comfortable during my period.”

Speaking during a media dialogue on G4G initiative in Gusau, Zamfara State on Monday, the programme officer in the state, Zarau Aliyu, said the reusable pad was introduced to the girls and women through the G4G initiative.

The media dialogue was organised by Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration with UNICEF with funding from UKAid, to discuss ways to create more awareness on girl child education in the Northern part of Nigeria.

“UNICEF taught them how to produce the pad to look like a normal sanitary pad,” Mrs Aliyu said.

“It can be washed after each use, after which they spread it under the sun and keep it in a neat bag given to them till the next use.

“We only gave them materials to use during the training but other consequent materials used were purchased by individuals themselves. The materials used include cotton, leather, pin which helps to hook the pad to the pant, and a bag to keep the pad safe until the next use,” she said.

Amira Abubakar, a 42 years old mother of eight who is a member of the Mother’s Associations (MA) said “In all honesty, G4G is a life changing programme for both mothers and girls in Zamfara State.

“The programme has helped women and girls to improve in their personal hygiene and self esteem. It has also given us opportunity to learn various skills like pomade making, Izal making, liquid wash, beads making and others. Most of the girls use the skills acquired to make money for their families.

“My children are benefitting from G4G. We appreciate UNICEF for coming to our aid and we pray God bless them more to reach other girls that are yet to take part in this programme,” she said.

Talatu Jibrin, a 42 years old G4G mentor and a teacher in Tudunwada Model Primary School, Tsakuwa, said the programme had improved her knowledge as a teacher and a mentor.

“There are some things I do not know even as a teacher, but when G4G was introduced, they trained us and taught us a lot of things that have changed our lives.

“After we were trained, it was not quite easy convincing the girls to partake in the G4G programme but now they are all happy they are part of it. We have all benefited one or two things from this programme,” she said.

The G4G project coordinator in the state, Tayo Fatinikun, said the initiative is a school-based safe space, extra curriculum activity established in support of the enrolled girls, especially in rural areas.

He said, the initiative is to provide a peer to peer opportunity for girls, both to men and to enhance their capacity to grow within the cultural dynamics that they find themselves.

He said much impact had been seen in the lives of the girls and mothers.

“Our targets are the children, women of reproductive age, youth and the community structures. For this project, since its inception in August 2017, we have been able to enroll 4,399 girls spread across 100 schools selected in six LGAs of the state,” he said.

Mr Fatinikun said the project had also achieved ground-breaking milestones in enhanced learning attitudes, and re-enrollment of over 165 out-of-school girls through the activities of the in-school membership.

He added that there had been state involvement through the States Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), which had encouraged active participation of mothers to support the education of their girl children.

Mr Fatinikun said 150 mentors had been trained on health and education issues to assist the girls in those areas.


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