Menstrual hygiene solutions: Kaduna girls take action
Adolescent girls in Kaduna State, North-West Nigeria are currently behind the sale of over 10,000 packs of reusable menstrual hygiene products worth N3.5 million, in a scheme that has become not only a means of livelihood for communities, but has also improved quality of life for the users.
The difficulties girls go through to get sanitary pads can only be imagined, especially so in rural communities or slums. One of such areas where this challenge manifests is Rigasa; is a densely populated urban slum in the south west of Igabi Local Government Area in Kaduna State.
Mr Yusha’u Abubakar, Founder and Executive Director, Enhancing Communities Action for Peace and Better Health Initiative (E-CAPH), said the issue of sanitary pads was a challenge in the community because of poverty and lack of economic empowerment.
“When the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) called for an application for a project to support adolescent girls and boys, we decided to apply with focus on this area because it is a challenge.
“We sent our proposal and UNFPA found it worthy and supported us to train young girls in our community.”
He said 200 girls were trained on making reusable sanitary pads, adding that the initiative has improved school attendance of girls in the community as well as taken care of their menstruation hygiene challenges.
Impact of the training on the girls
Fatima Abdullahi, 18, is one those trained by E- CAPH and described the experience as overwhelming because she now produces it for her personal use and for trade.
“I was used to begging for money to buy pads or forced to use other materials in spite of its discomfort for my period. Now I help myself and others with my trade,” she said.
Similarly, Asma’u Mohammed, 18, said she was happy for the acquired skill that has made her self-reliant.
“With this, I don’t have to ask my parents for everything I need, because I can now earn little money by making sanitary pads for my peers.”
Sanitary pad boosting economic empowerment of the community
Albabatu Musa, Manager and Coordinator, E-CAPH Skills Acquisition Centre, said the accessibility of the reusable pad has made it a preferred choice for most girls in the Rigasa community.
“The reusable pad is made up of cotton-based materials because of its absorbable nature and easy access in the market.
“So far, 15,000 packs of three pieces each, have been produced at the centre and sold for N3.5 million to a client in Borno State.
“At the open market, a pack is sold for N500 and for every pack, there is a gain (profit) of N150. The product is in high demand,” she said.
Musa said the pad was highly profitable and cost effective because it can be used for a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 6 months.
“A pack of three go for N500 with a profit margin of N150. The trained adolescents were currently making the reusable pad for their personal use and sales.”
Support by the UNFPA in the Rigasa pad project
Ms Mariana Darboe, the Programme Coordinator and Head of Office, UNFPA Decentralised Office for Northern Nigeria, said the reusable sanitary pad project was part of the livelihood support training as a COVID-19 response to alleviate poverty in communities.
She said the project was supported by the funds Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) project under the UN Basket Fund support for COVID-19 response in Nigeria.
Darboe added that the RCCE initiative was to curb the risk and impact of gender-based violence and interconnecting sexual and reproductive health consequences.
A mother’s burden lifted
A mother of four, Sadiya Ibrahim, said the reusable sanitary pad had reduced her stress “because most times during their menstrual period I am helpless to help my four girls with the needed money to buy sanitary pads.
“Sometimes they feel uncomfortable saying that they are on their period, so they just use available pieces of clothes to help themselves.
“Whenever they use clothes, they spend most of their time in the room because it makes them uncomfortable.”
How we got the buy-in of the communities considering the religious and cultural challenges
In most communities in northern Nigeria, talking about reproductive health issues among women and young girls is considered a no-go area. E-CAPH executive director Abubakar said the initiative surmounted this major limitation and got the buy-in of the community through advocacy.
“We were able to make people understand what sexual and reproductive health issues are all about and the need for parents to talk to their children about sexual reproductive health issues.
“The religious and community leaders provided the platform for us to talk to young girls in Islamiyah schools, women groups gathered their children and invited us to talk to them.
“This strategy helped in increasing the acceptance of talking about the issues in communities where it is hitherto difficult to do so.”
How the girls monthly dilemma turns to joy
Some users of the sanitary pads narrated their experiences on how it changed their monthly dilemma to joy.
Kadijah Salis, 17: “I use pieces of clothes due to lack of money to buy a pad. Sometimes I am forced to stay at home to avoid embarrassment in school because most times the clothes leak and stain our uniforms.
“The reusable pad is the best thing that has happened to some of us from poor households.
Sadiya Aliyu, 18, said she only got to hear of the reusable pad recently, adding that it is “better because I can use it for six months and it is very comfortable. I only need two for a whole year”.
The way forward for menstruation hygiene in Rigasa
The Founder and Executive Director of E-CAPH said that the initiative was able to overcome the challenges of non-acceptance by the community that was religiously inclined not to discuss matter relating to women and especially women monthly menstrual cycle.
This, he said, was due to the various trainings personnel of his organisation went through.
From these training “we were able to understand the role of religious leaders, community leaders, women and youth groups in advocating for reproductive health and family planning.
“There was equally a book produced by NUHRI on religious (Islamic and Christian) perspectives to family planning.
“We used the book in partnership with religious leaders and women groups to advocate for the acceptance of the family planning and reproductive health issues in communities.
“We were able to help them understand more about sexual and reproductive health issues. This led to the acceptance by parents to talk to their children and wards about sexual reproductive health issues.
Abubakar said that with the achievement so far recorded in helping the girls to better manage their menstrual hygiene, development partners, state government and local government areas should support the initiative to increase access by the poor and vulnerable adolescent girls in urban and rural areas.(NAN)
***If used, please credit the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)