Did you know that over 37 million women and girls of reproductive age in Nigeria lack access to menstrual hygiene products due to a lack of funds? Period poverty is a global problem but is more prevalent in developing countries. Today, girls are still stigmatized and excluded because of a normal bodily function.
Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD) is held annually on the 28th of May to highlight the importance of menstrual care and raise awareness about the issues faced by those who don’t have access to sanitary products.
Understanding this challenge, South Saharan Social Development Organization, in partnership with WaterAid Nigeria, is playing its part in changing the narrative. To commemorate Menstrual Hygiene Day this year under the theme, “Making Menstruation a Normal Fact of Life by 2030”, the team organized a menstrual hygiene management education program at Government Secondary School Abakaliki Road, Enugu.
The introduction and overview of menstruation were facilitated by Mrs. Cheta the Adolescent focal person at UNTH. She started by asking the students questions on menstruation and then stated the meaning of menstruation, also known as a woman’s period, as a natural process that occurs in the reproductive system of females which is also a regular part of a woman’s life, typically starting during puberty and continuing until menopause. While menstruation is a normal biological phenomenon, it is often accompanied by a range of physical and emotional experiences that can vary from person to person.
She went further to explain that menstruation has been both a topic of curiosity and a subject shrouded in stigma and taboo. Cultural beliefs, religious practices, and societal attitudes have influenced the way menstruation is perceived and discussed. However, in recent years, there has been a growing movement, such as sensitizing both males and females to break the silence surrounding menstruation and promote open conversations about this natural bodily function. Therefore, she encouraged the students, especially the girls, to embrace their womanhood and have open conversations when needed.
The school outreach was an opportunity to raise awareness and promote proper menstrual hygiene practices among female students. Male students were also sensitized as brothers, future fathers and uncles so they know what to do to help out. They were taught not to stigmatize or mock their female counterpart. The engagement increased knowledge and understanding of menstrual hygiene, debunked myths and misconceptions, and challenged stigmas surrounding menstruation.
Students were engaged in a participatory and inclusive approach as they demonstrated how to use sanitary pads properly, and wrong notions were corrected. Sanitary pads were shared among the female students, ensuring they had access to essential menstrual hygiene products.