Period Poverty: Reusable pad to school girls rescue

According to UNESCO, in Sub-Saharan Africa, one in 10 girls misses schools during her menstrual cycle, which equates to up to 20 per cent of a school year.

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Period Poverty, Reusable pad, to school girls rescueBy Martha Agas

In Abuja, North Central Nigeria, the girls of Junior Secondary School (JSS) Wuse, Zone 2, are excited that they have learnt a new skill that would ease their access to education amidst the numerous challenges the girl-child confront.

One of such challenges is period poverty, the lack of access to safe hygienic menstrual products. It also involves lack of access to sanitation services and menstrual hygiene education.

Baek Caleb, in an article shaded light on the pervasive issue of period poverty in Nigeria, affecting over 37 million girls and women who cannot afford essential menstrual hygiene products.

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The article entitled: Millions of Nigerian Females in Period Poverty was published in an Elsevier journal.

In spite of the gravity of the situation, they say, the crisis remains largely unaddressed and normalised within Nigerian society.

“The escalating cost of sanitary pads over the past 15 years has exacerbated the problem, pushing a vital necessity out of reach for a significant portion of the population’’, he advised.

This period poverty is not peculiar to Nigeria.

According to a study, 500 million people in the U.S. lack access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities while 16.9 million people who menstruate in the US are living in poverty.

“Two-thirds of the 16.9 million low-income women in the US could not afford menstrual products in the past year, with a half of this needing to choose between menstrual products and food“, say Janet Michel and other scholars in a study.

The study entitled: Poverty Period: “Why it should be everybody’s business’’ featured in the Journal of Health Reports.

Gyer Hembafan, 17, from Benue, is one of the 30 young girls who were taught by an NGO, Focusing on Women and Girls Initiative (FOWGI) for Positive Change, how to make reusable pads.

She was brought to Abuja by her aunty in 2020 for better life opportunities, particularly in education.

The aim is also to bring relief to her mother a widow based in Makurdi and struggling to take care of her other two sisters.

Hembafan says: “In our village, we use clothe during our menstrual period and we do not dispose it properly.

She explained that the discomfort of using clothe discourages many girls from attending school in her village during their periods.

According to UNESCO, in Sub-Saharan Africa, one in 10 girls misses schools during her menstrual cycle, which equates to up to 20 per cent of a school year.

Ecstatic, Hembafan says she looks forward to visiting her village in Makurdi to share what she has learned in Abuja.

“I will teach them how to make reusable pads and how to dispose of them properly by wrapping them in a bag before throwing them in a bin“ she said.

A sigh of relief has also come to her aunty with this development, especially considering the increasing economic challenges in the country.

She will no longer need to buy the disposable pads, the cheapest of which costs about N600 in the market for just between seven to eight pieces.

Experts say sanitary pads should be changed after every eight hours, meaning a minimum of two packs is needed for a menstrual period of five days.

She says her aunt has other needs to handle, and she is happy that this one is off her list. Moreover, she is privileged to access quality education in the city compared to her peers in the village.

Also, Sarah Edunjobi, 12, from the same school, is eager to share her knowledge of making reusable pads with her sister when she returns home from school.

She introduced her sister to it and received positive feedback, along with a request to be taught.

Edunjobi says her mother has been supporting her by purchasing the materials she needs to produce the pads and encouraged her to also to sell them.

Training of young girls of Junior Secondary School (JSS) Wuse, Zone 2, on the making of reusable organised by FOWGI

Similarly, in the city of Jos, in Plateau, Blessing Pam,13, from Government Secondary School Hwolshe was among the 30 beneficiaries of the reusable pad training organised by the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) in November, 2023.
She is always scared of staining herself during her period and feels sorry for her mother, who bears the burden of buying sanitary towels for her every month from her sales of gruel(kunu), while also caring for her other four siblings.
She expresses her desire to make reusable pads and sell them if given the opportunity. She believes that the government should them for free to school girls.

 

Training of school girls in making reusable pads organises by the Plateau Chapter of NAWOJ in Jos

Period poverty has made women to use unconventional materials during their periods.

report indicates that the use of crude, improvised materials such as scraps of old clothing, pieces of foam mattress, toilet papers, leaves and banana fibers for monthly periods prevents them from engaging in their daily lives activities  including attending school.

Menstruation is a natural process that typically begins in girls between the ages of   10 and 14.

It is expected to be embraced by females as a source of pride, but reports indicate that some girls develop anxiety toward their period due to being unable to afford proper menstrual products.

Unfortunately, due to poverty, this natural phenomenon has caused many girls to be out of school or to skip going to school.

According to UNICEF, one in every five of the world out-of-school children is in Nigeria. The report stated that states in the North-East and North-West have female primary net attendance rate of 47.7 per cent and 47.3 per cent, respectively, indicating that more than half of the girls are not in school.

Experts say that although the reasons for poor attendance could be numerous, providing sustainable measures to address the menstrual challenge period would greatly impact their ability to confidently participate fully in school activities.

The Girl Child Education (GEM) International, an NGO, has continuously donated reusable sanitary towels to school girls in northern Nigeria.

Its Director, Mrs Keturah Shammah has identified period poverty as a factor that makes girls absent from school.

“In one of our surveys in a public school in Jos South Local Government Area, between 10 to 12 per cent of the girls normally miss school every day. The one we had recently 20 per cent miss school because most of them do not have access to sanitary pad.

“So if they are menstruating, they will have to stay at home. Anytime we go to a school we will have not less than 10 girls absent because of menstrual issues, “ she said.

Shammah said governments should prioritise promoting girl-child education through the distribution of pads, particularly in rural areas and urban suburbs.

The advocate also urged governments to be intentional in formulating policies that provided for sustainable schemes for the distribution of sanitary towels, and should consider providing reusable pads for school girls.

Benefits of reusable for periods
Source: TRADE TO AID reusable sanitary pads

Similarly, Mrs Nene Dung, the Chairperson NAWOJ, Plateau chapter, said they sponsored the training of 30 girls in the making of reusable pads to stem the increasing number of out of school girls particularly in the North.

She urged government to partner with organisations such as NAWOJ and similar associations in training girls on making reusable pad and commended the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE) World Bank project.

She urged state governments to create similar programmes through the offices of their first ladies and their ministries of women affairs to promote girl child education.

To Mrs Rifkatu Bello, the Executive Director, FOWGI, another NGO, to provide a sustainable solution, the reusable pad initiative should be adopted by governments at all levels.

She said achieving SDG 4 of inclusive and equitable quality education by 2030 requires training girls on how to make reusable pads to address period poverty.

While stakeholders urge the government and NGOs to adopt the training of school girls on reusable pad  and its free distribution similar to the free distribution of condoms to mitigate the spread of HIV/AIDS.

It is hoped that the AGILE project would incorporate the training of girls on reusable and its distribution as a sustainable measure.

Girl child advocates say that menstruation should not hinder girl child education due to poverty.

Therefore, critical stakeholders must be intentional about creating enabling environment for the girl child, ensuring she does not see this natural biological process as a barrier to a brighter future.

News Agency of Nigeria.