Menstruation is an important part of a woman’s life. Sadly, a lot of girls and women go through their monthly cycles without correct and adequate information; clean sanitary products and accessible water supply; clean and safe sanitation facilities; hand hygiene facilities; and appropriate waste disposal systems.
Some Nigerians have, however, taken up the responsibility to fill the gap in menstrual hygiene management through their innovative initiatives as they visit schools, local communities, and internally displaced person’s camps to reach their audience – girls and women.
SNTK chats with six youths who are on a mission to end period poverty in Nigeria about the impact of their work.
Dr Opeyemi Adeyemi
While serving her fatherland, Adeyemi saw the way women and girls in the community she was posted to managed their menstruation. Noting that it was due to the lack of awareness and empowerment, she decided to do something about it.
Passionate about sexual and reproductive health, the public health physician started to correct the myths around menstruation through education while promoting the use of reusable eco-friendly products
In the last four years of working to end period poverty, Adeyemi has impacted more than 5000 girls, written two books on sex education and created the first board game in West Africa to teach menstrual education.
To end period poverty, the public health physician believes that people need to see it as a human right and public health issue, encourage the use of reusable pads through education and demystification, provide water, and promote the proper disposal of products.
“Let’s start with providing free menstrual products to schools, homeless shelters or maybe just provision of clean toilets that have running water in schools,” Adeyemi said as she listed the necessary investments for the government to end period poverty.
Nobody taught Efe Johnson about menstruation before she experienced it. The first time Johnson saw her period, she was stained, scared, and ashamed.
Due to her personal experience and that of other girls who missed school because of their period or were laughed at for being stained, the social impact strategist decided to start Xari Africa, an NGO breaking the taboo cycle around issues that affect women.
Johnson empowers girls with menstrual education through different programmes. Under the “Pad-A-Girl campaign,” the Xari Africa tour, and the creation of “Just period it,” a practical guide to understanding periods, she has impacted at least 5,500 teenage girls in the last 5 years.
Johnson believes that making sanitary pads free and easier access to menstrual education are important in ending period poverty in Nigeria.
Idris Bilyaminu Ndasadu’Lau
The 22-year-old social activist is the founder of Youth Awarenes for Peace and Development (YAPD), a nonprofit organization which focuses on grassroot communities to improve education, health, well-being, and social development of vulnerable children, women, and young people
In 2019, Ndasadu’Lau carried out a research that showed that the inability of girls to afford sanitary pads denies them their right to full participation in education and other social activities. His research also showed that financial inequality, stigma, taboos, and discrimination of period especially in local communities needed to be addressed.
Through YAPD4Africa, Ndasadu’Lau initiated the RESCUE A GIRL Project to educate, empower and advocate for girls and women.
The social activist also tackled the financial inequality facing women in poor communities by empowering them with cotton businesses. This way, they can afford the sanitary product of their choice.
“From 2020 to 2021 only, our project empowered and impacted 1350 women and girls in over 10 marginalised communities, IDP camps and secondary schools. Also over 80% women showed interest in our reusable pads training while our MHM education does more than just educating girls about menstruation. It also empowers both school and local girls to challenge menstrual taboos, stigma, and motivate them to engage in the topic and support one another.”
Having had a first-hand experience of the effects of lack of menstrual education and sanitary products, Sarah Kuponiyi started campaigning against period poverty.
Kuponiyi is the founder of Alora Reusable Pads, a social enterprise that addresses period poverty by creating eco-friendly menstrual hygiene products freely distributed to in school and vulnerable girls and sold at affordable prices to the general public.
Through her company, Sarah has impacted over 5000 girls in Adamawa, Gombe, Ekiti, Lagos, Abuja, and Cross River states with reusable pads. With her NGO, A Well Informed Adolescent Initiative, she provides comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents.
“We need to do more by reducing VAT on sanitary commodities, establish pad banks in every 2km, develop policies that addresses structural inequalities, and promote menstrual health,” she listed ways Nigeria can end period poverty.
After living on the streets for almost two years and struggling with menstrual products every month, Raquel Daniel decided that girls who have no access to sanitary products shouldn’t also suffer the same fate.
Daniel is the founder of Beyond the Classroom Foundation, a non-profit organisation providing support for children in poor, marginalized, underserved, and conflict-affected communities in Nigeria through Education.
Her organisation’s goal is to get children in school and remove the barriers that prevent them from staying, excelling, and graduating from school.
Through her Project Red Robots (Fund Her Flow Initiative) over 40,000 girls have been educated on menstrual hygiene practices and provided with sanitary towels worth 3-6 months.
To ensure girls have adequate information on menstruation, she wrote a book called FLOW; a girl’s guide to menstruation and have distributed over 1500 free copies to girls who cannot afford it across low-income schools and the internally displaced persons’ camps.
“The government can focus on three areas; one will be to include menstrual hygiene information in the curriculum for girls starting from upper primary classes. They should also focus on ensuring we have proper facilities in schools that allow girls to change their sanitary pads with dignity. The last will be to partner with organizations and manufacturers of sanitary pads to make sanitary banks available in government schools. This will help more girls not miss many days of school,” Daniels said, listing the necessary investments government can make to end period poverty.
Karo Omu’s advocacy to end period poverty started in 2017 following a conversation on Twitter about the rising cost of sanitary pads. Omu was surprised to learn that the cost of sanitary pads had gone up since she left the country only a year before.
They young woman then called for donations on the micro-blogging platform for less privileged girls in underserved communities who can’t afford to buy sanitary pads.
That birthed Omu’s initiative called The Sanitary Aid Initiative Nigeria (SANG). SANG was established to address the needs of over 65% of the Nigerian female population who do not have access to sanitary pads. The organisation provides free sanitary pads and other sanitary products including soaps, wipes, toilet bags, disinfectant, clean underwear etc. to girls from low-income families across public schools in Nigeria and girls in Internally Displaced Persons Camps across the country.
They have provided over 20,000 girls and young women across 13 states in Nigeria with sanitary hygiene products with over 70% of their reach benefitting from reusable and sustainable sanitary pads.
SANG also published a little book with basic information about periods and how to manage it. The organisation recently published a research paper about period poverty and its effects on school girls in Nigeria.