By Tosin Kolade
Elsie Ozika, Executive Director of Toilet Kulture Initiative (TKI), has urged the three tiers of government to distribute free sanitary pads to schoolgirls to promote attendance and menstrual health and hygiene.
Ozika made the call at an event to create awareness and distribute sanitary products to schoolgirls of LEA Primary School, Shetuko, Kuje Area Council of the FCT.
The event was to commemorate the 2021 Menstrual Hygiene Day in Abuja, with the theme “Action and Investment in Menstrual Hygiene and Health.”
She said the day afforded the organisation the opportunity not only to raise awareness about issues of menstrual hygiene but demystify cultural issues and taboos around menstruation.
According to her, the choice of Shetuko community is borne out of the need to take the campaign to grassroots where awareness on menstrual hygiene is poor.
She said it was an effort to sustain similar campaign which TKI had previously embarked upon in Kuje.
Ozika expressed dissatisfaction that the increasing prices of sanitary products made it unaffordable for young girls, “especially with the economic difficulties around the country.”
She, therefore, urged government at all levels to make it a priority to provide sanitary products for girls, particularly in schools.
She added that “in commemorating the Menstrual Hygiene Day this year, we are faced with an outbreak of a global virus called COVID-19.
“According to experts, the poorest sections of the society have been worst affected in accessing menstrual hygiene products during the pandemic largely because of their shrinking purchasing power.
“Even in the best of times, you all will agree with me that gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of basic services often cause menstrual health and hygiene needs of women and girls to go unmet.
“In emergencies, these deprivations can be worse. These deprivations have negative impacts on restricting mobility, limiting freedom and choices.
“Reducing participation in school, work and community life, compromising safety and causing stress and anxiety to women and girls”.
The executive director quoted a UNICEF report, which showed that 26.7 per cent of menstruating women did not have access to the basic WASH facilities needed to properly manage themselves during menstruation.
She said the visit to the community was not just to commemorate the 2021 Menstrual Hygiene Day but a way of responding in collaboration with every organisation represented.
“Our way of saying we understand the challenges faced by women and especially the young adolescent girls who amidst the crises are still menstruating.
“These people are with no access to pads, water, good toilets, lack of information on MHM, who are faced with myths and taboos that threaten their very lives during menstruation.”
Highlight of the event was the donation of a menstrual hygiene dock containing sanitary pads and tissue papers, practical demonstration of proper use of sanitary pads and hand washing techniques.
Executive Director, FORI Foundation for Women Empowerment and Environmental Initiative (FOFOWEEI) Ruth During, urged mothers and guardians to educate the younger girls on what menstruation and period was about.
This, she noted would enable them prepared for it whenever it was time.
She expressed displeasure over poor menstrual knowledge, saying it had led some young girls to getting unwanted pregnancies, adding that it was inimical to their educational pursuit and future.
“For children who are in school, when you get pregnant because of poor knowledge of menstrual period, you will drop out of school because no pregnant child will go to school.
“So when you see the blood, go to your parents. Some of you are very scared and might not want to discuss it with your parents.
If you have a Biology teacher, you can ask him or her to educate you.
“We also advice parents, when the child starts seeing that blood (menstruation) talk to them so that they will not be caught unawares.”
During urged parents to educate their female children on the need to regularly take their bath especially during menstruation to maintain good hygiene.