Child rights activists in Nigeria say millions of women and girls are challenged by menstrual circle.
To this end, they called on the Nigerian government to pay more attention to menstrual hygiene by providing adequate care for girls and women generally.
The call came at a one-day conference organized in Lagos by the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection, CEE-HOPE in collaboration with Girls On A Mission, GOAM Australia to mark the 2019 International Menstrual Hygiene Day.
CEE-HOPE’s founder and Executive Director, Betty Abah said “the conference was to draw attention of government and other stakeholders to the difficulties that women and girls in prison, detention centres, Internally Displaced Persons, ID) camps, those fleeing conflicts, those with mental health issues and those facing economic difficulties, face.”
Abah said the event was also to sensitise the school girls on how to avoid rape since they are the ones mostly targeted for rape.
Need for the provision of pads
She called on government to provide free sanitary pads to women in light of the increasing difficulty that needy women and girls face in handling their monthly periods due to lack of access to sanitary products.
“Before now period was regarded as a taboo topic but it is time to end the silence and put it in public burner, this is something that affects millions of girls especially because we are going through a major economic depression and many families purchasing powers are down to zero,” she said.
According to her, lack of money to purchase sanitary pads put many girls in very vulnerable situation which make them to be involved in contractual sex to get money to buy pads and many get infected in the process while many girls miss school when they are in their period and have no money to buy pads.
“If government agencies and corporations can give condom to people for free, why can’t they give sanitary products for free?.
“Sex is a choice except in cases of rape, but menstruation is never a choice for women and girls in their reproductive years, so this is an issue we can’t afford to keep over-looking,” Abah said.
Apart from the School girls that attended the conference, medical personnel, activists, teachers, journalists and others also were in attendance.
Distribution of Sanitary Pads
It witnessed the distribution of sanitary pads to the school girls. The event was the second of such by CEE-HOPE, having held the first for 230 girls in Makoko slum in Lagos to mark that of last year.
CEE-HOPE is an NGO that works with vulnerable children especially girls.
A Doctor and Founder, Atayese Health Network and Bambo Hospital, Dr. Adeolu Olusodo, on said that the issue of menstrual hygiene should be given more attention by government as women are at the centre of procreation and therefore most relevant in the sustainability of humankind.
Dr Olusodo who also runs medical services for the poor in slum communities across Lagos lectured the students on the biology of menstrual cycle and how they can understand their cycle and report abnormalities.
The founder of the YinkaKenny Girls Care Foundation, Yinka Kenny, spoke on menstrual hygiene management.
Kenny described Menstruation as ‘a responsibility that nature has bestowed upon us, it cannot be avoided and we need to ensure we do our bit to stay healthy in order to avoid infections.’
She also advocated for free sanitary pads for economically-disadvantaged women and girls, and took questions from several of the school girls.
Rape crises management expert and Executive Director, Media Concern for Women and Children, MEDIACON, Dr. Princess Kayode-Olufemi, took the children through steps to take to avoid rape.
She explained that once they attain puberty, they can be pregnant and urged them to ensure they avoid unprotected sex and rape.
One of the participating students, Miss Priceless Onyegbuna, aged 15, said; “I learnt a lot from the program especially about menstrual cycles and how to be extra-neat during the period. I also learnt that women are extremely important in the continuity of creation.”
Menstrual Hygiene Day
The menstrual hygiene day commemoration kick-started in 2014.
Hygiene experts worldwide agree that millions of women battle with managing their menstruation globally due to low purchasing power and it is a major factor for continuing inequality as many girls stay away from school during their periods being unable to cope with lack of access to pads during the period while women and girls get involved in sex exchange to access fund to manage it.
Providing sanitary products to women and advocacy for free products has also become the pet project for Meghan Markel, wife of Prince Harry of England, to underscore the seriousness of the issue.