By Talatu Maiwada
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has advocated for “safe spaces” to enable women and girls practice menstruation in a safer environment.
Mr Steve Aborisade, the Advocacy and Marketing Manager, AHF Nigeria, made the call at an event in commemoration of the 2021 Menstrual Hygiene Day, with the theme: “A Necessity, Not a Luxury”.
Aborisade said the the event was organised in partnership with other stakeholders, including the Federal Government.
He said it held to sensitise young girls from various schools in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on menstrual hygiene practices and reusable pads.
The schools included Lightway Academy, Junior Secondary School Apo, Junior Secondary School Gbagalape, Junior Secondary School Kpeyegyi, School of the Deaf Kuje and members of the Girls ACT.
Aborisade said the day was set aside to broaden the message of menstrual hygiene among young girls as a necessity for optimal health.
He emphasised the need for young girls in schools to have access to sanitary pads, a safe and clean environment to change and dispose used pads.
“The foundation is ensuring that this message is broadened especially when we realised that menstruation is a necessity for women and girls.
“It is a monthly ritual and majority of our girls lack access to sanitary pads, which is necessary for optimal health; especially young girls who are in schools need to have confident.
“We want government and other stakeholders to begin to look inward to see that it is an area of intervention.
“We want girls in schools to have places where they can pick a refill of their pads, like a sanitary pad bank where we have enough pads available for a lot of young girls.”
He added that the foundation would be supplying five million pads across Africa and 40,000 would be distributed at AHF operating states, including FCT, Nasarawa, Kogi, Anambra, Cross River and Akwa-Ibom.
Mrs Justina Ukachi, the Principal Community Development Officer, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, admonished the school girls that menstruation is a natural process for women and girls.
Ukachi, who stressed that proper menstruation hygiene helps prevent infections and bad smell during the period, added that personal hygiene was important for their well-being and development.
“The Ministry will be unveiling a menstrual pad bank so that during emergency, women and girls can have access to pads, disinfectant, hand sanitisers and soaps, among others.
“We also want to see that the menstrual pad bank is replicated at work places, markets, schools and other public places across the federation,” Ukachi said.
Also speaking, Mrs Adaeze Ike, Nursing Officer with the Federal Ministry of Health, highlighted misconceptions surrounding menstrual practices such as cultural, social and religious barriers.
Ike who spoke on the perceived belief that menstruation was surrounded by silence, taboos and stigma, stressed that menstruating women or girls are not impure, cursed or dirty.
“In some places whenever a child is menstruating, she is not expected to go to school, it is assumed she is toxic and harmful to anybody that touches her .
“Other restriction are not bathing for the number of menstruation days, as it is believed that if they bath it can stop the flow which is a barrier to personal hygiene.
“Some also believe that when they dispose their sanitary pads, someone can use it for charm thereby affecting the fertility of the girl or woman,” Ike stressed.
She further encouraged the girls to continue with their daily routine, such as going to school, work and even travelling.
Miss Grace Emmanuel, student of Lightway Academy Abuja, appreciated the foundation for organising the event and distributing sanitary pad to students.
“I learnt that when a girl is on her period she should take her bath regularly, at least two to three times, dispose our pads properly and use clean under wears,” she stated.
Miss Joy Moses, student of school for the Deaf, Kuje Abuja, on her part, with the use of sign language, expressed joy and commended
the organisers for educating them on personal hygiene.
“I learnt that when I have menstrual pain I can meet my school counsellor or doctor to give me a medication that can help reduce the pain,” she said. (NAN)