By Ugonma Cokey
This is one of the points highlighted at a Menstrual Hygiene Day conversation to stress the importance of girls’ menstrual hygiene.
The discussion criticized the government for not remembering to include pads to differentiate between boys and girls when it decided to provide raw food rations for home grown food programme.
The conversation was made during a Tweet chat on Challenges of Menstrual Hygiene Management for Girls in the Time of COVID -19 organised by Cee-Hope; a nongovernmental organisation to mark the menstrual Hygiene Day 2020.
According to one of the speakers, Anike-Ade Funke , Executive Team Lead, Sanitary Pad Media Campaign, “Nigeria did not recognize pads as one of the essential items for palliatives. So at the beginning of the lockdown I kept tweeting about it. The body language of the government and perception of menstrual issues must change first.”
For the Founder of Smoothflo Reusable Pads, Lagos, Femi Iroko, “The economic impact of covid-19 on the common man is so severe that all they are concerned about is “survival; what to eat”, This has made more girls vulnerable as they are not able to purchase menstruation management products.”
He said the situation had further exposed them to lots of abuses which might lead to increased teenage pregnancy post covid-19, reiterating that the government, NGOS and individuals must collaboratively support the girl child.
The activists identified lack of clean water and soap, inadequate access to sanitation facilities within poorer communities, cultural stigma and shame that prevents girls from sun-drying the reusable cloth pads, unhygienic practices, importation of raw materials, high taxation, as some of the challenges inhibiting menstrual hygiene management.
They identified holistic efforts including hygiene education which will also include wash and care instructions, provision of sanitary facilities, access to materials, tax cuts, access to clean water and soap.
“We are concerned with the inadequate access to proper sanitation facilities within impoverished communities. This is a significant concern as women and girls put themselves at risk of disease and even death. We have a long term goal Goal to promote a positive culture around menstrual health and build a supportive environment.” Sanaa Mehajer, Founder Girl on A Mission (GOAM), Australia
She insisted that “Free access to sanitary items in health care facilities across the world is a basic human right. A woman’s inability to control her uncontrollable fait is a clear violation.”
The activists citing Zambia, called for provision of menstrual leave in Nigeria’s labour laws.
The discussion identified menstrual hygiene challenge as significant among school girls who generally have no financial independence to even purchase and advocated for free sanitary pads for girls as had been done in Kenya and South Africa.
The Tweet chat said Nigeria needs to care about period dignity since many women suffer from period pains.
According to them, menstruation kits will go a long way in supporting the girl child because the shame of bloodstains is a major reason for girls missing class and getting low grades.
“We advocate for reusable pads because it also helps in reduction of waste caused by disposable sanitary towels.”
Need for collaboration
They urged all stakeholders to work together in achieving menstrual hygiene management in Nigeria.
The activists agreed to work together to ensure girls everywhere have pads and explore other available options with a view to ensuring that every child is able to make choices of whatever menstrual products she is comfortable with.
The discussants at the Tweet chat include Femi Iroko, Founder , Smoothflo Reusable Pads, Lagos, Sanaa Mehajer ,Founder Girl on A Mission (GOAM), Australia, Princess Osita-Oleribe, Centre for Family Health Initiative (CFHI) Abuja, Nas Ebiere, Executive Director, Prime Diamond Initiative for Community Health (PDICH)London/ Abuja, Anike-Ade Funke, Executive Team Lead Sanitary Pad Media Campaign, Illuminate Nigeria Development Network development (INDN)
Betty Abah, Executive Director of Cee- Hope Nigeria moderated the chat.
The highpoint of the programme was the launch of “Give us This Day Our Monthly Pads,” Cee-Hope’s short video documentary on Nigerian school girls and the challenges of MHM in commemoration of the International Day for Menstrual Hygiene.
Menstrual Hygiene Day is an annual awareness day on May 28 to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management. The 28th was chosen to acknowledge that 28 days is the average length of menstrual circle.
It was initiated by the German NGO WASH United in 2014 and aims to benefit women and girls worldwide.
Edited by Eniola Ajayi