It was menstrual day out recently as Junior Secondary School, Durumi, opened its gates for a sit out with the female students to discuss the basics of menstrual hygiene. REGINA OTOKPA captured the key moments in the lives of the teenagers
“I prefer to stay at home the first three days of my period to monitor the heavy flow instead of going to school to get stained. I have never been stained but I see the way boys make jests of girls who either get stained or smell in school,” a tearful Emmanuella Okorondu told inside Abuja. Although she has never experienced such, the fear of being embarrassed by her peers, especially boys, will not make her dress up for school at least three times during school days in a month.
This is the dilemma majority of school girls within the ages of 12 to 17 face as a result of poor menstrual education and lack of water and sanitation facilities in schools. A study in East Africa shows that one ( 1) in ten (10) girls, miss school because of menstruation.
In this part of the world, most parents fail to educate their daughters on what to expect and how to retain a high level of cleanliness when they start menstruating, due to ignorance, cultural beliefs and shame. Mrs. Okon Joy, a mother of three girls, told INSIDE ABUJA that she has never talked to any of her daughters about menstruation. According to her, it is a private business which they need to sort out themselves. After about 30 minutes of persuasion, she finally spoke to Inside Abuja in spattered pidgin saying, “My mother never told me anything about menstruation. I grew into it. So, I didn’t see any reason to pry into my daughters privacy.
I need to respect their privacy. Besides, I don’t think I can open my mouth and start talking to my children about how they go about cleaning themselves when they are on their period.
“I know my two eldest daughters have started menstruating. Sometimes, I see them buy tissue paper and on few occasions, my daughter Ateirom experiences waist or abdominal pains,” she said.
When asked how she manages her menstrual flow and why she doesn’t buy sanitary pads for her daughters whenever a request for money to buy tissue paper was made, she exclaimed, ” “Abeg o! Pad is too expensive! How much foodstuffs do I sell in a day to be able to buy pad for myself and daughters? “I cannot be spending N500 to buy pad when tissue of N50 will serve the purpose. As for me, I use clean rags but I make sure I wash them very well and dry them for next month,” she said.
Maintaining good hygiene is the most important instrument in fighting off infectious diseases especially amongst women and girls. However, due to ignorance and inadequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities and education, a good number of females spend a fortune treating infections capable of destroying the reproductive organs if left untreated.
Inside Abuja checks revealed that a number of schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) lacked adequate water and toilet facilities for young girls to maintain the much needed high level of hygiene especially during their menstrual cycle. Worried about this trend, Give Girls a Chance Foundation (GGCF) and Envision Global Care Foundation (EGCF), embarked on a campaign round schools in the FCT, to sensitise young girls on how to manage their mensuration properly without missing school, losing their confidence or abstaining from normal schedule and activities within the duration of their menstrual flow.
Pleased with the sensitisation programme, a student of J.S.S Durumi, Chioma John, noted that she usually encountered some difficulty on how to make proper use of a sanitary pad . “I learnt how to keep myself clean and change the pad after every six hours.
We really appreciate the group for bringing the outreach to our school and I wish other groups will follow in this step.” Another student of the school who gave her name only as Edith, said she learnt to keep herself clean, to always change the sanitary pad as often as possible and most importantly, how to dispose the sanitary pad effectively .
“We have good portable water in the school and we can always make use of water compared to other schools .We are grateful to the group for providing the necessary incentive to carry out the activity.” According to a co founder of GGCF, Dr Hauwa Balami, it was important for school authorities to ensure girls have access to water sanitation and hygiene in schools during their menstrual cycle.
While noting that menstrual hygiene campaign was part of the school improvement programme for girls to have access to WASH, she said: “We want the girls to know that they are meant to maintain high level of hygiene during their menstrual cycle.”
Balami, who explained that the project would be replicated in other parts of the country, called on all tiers of governments and well meaning Nigerians, to provide adequate WASH facilities in schools so as to make learning environment conducive for girls during their monthly cycle.
“We are urging school administrations in all parts of the country to make hygiene high priority. If the toilets are dirty, there is high risk of infection for females and they need to change the pad very often so that they will be comfort-able. We have disposable pads and reusable pads.
We normally advise young girls to make use of disposable pads.” While urging the students to spread the message to other girls around them, she however cautioned that reusable pad should be properly washed and dried under the sun to prevent infection.
“Due to financial constraints, people in remote areas find it hard sometimes to use the menstrual pad and they make use of cloth. Even at that, they have to ensure that it is properly soaked with detergent to prevent smelling and disinfect it.
It is very vital to stay hygienic when menstruating, so as to prevent infection from potential women.” Speaking to Inside Abuja, the program manager, Envision Global Care Foundation, Chinonye Ndukwe, charged government on the provision of a conducive learning environment to make the girls concentrate during their menstrual cycle .
“We want the girls to understand that menstruation is a biological process ,and no one should be discriminated against while undergoing it. It is a natural process and women should not feel bad while doing it,” she said. Mrs Caroline Benjamin, a representative from the Ministry of Education, harped on the need for increased awareness on menstrual education to widen the knowledge on female hygiene to cover important subjects such as body history, dysmenorrhea and the different types of infections suffered by women and girls resulting from poor hygiene. Speaking to the young girls, she said: “For those that always have menstrual cramps they should ensure they take proper care of their body .We have different conditions called dysmenorrhea; we have the mild one and the secondary one.
“The secondary factor is due to some factors , such as endometriosis and also pelvic inflammatory disease. It is always good to know the causative factors and check mate it and if it is persistent ,it is necessary to consult a doctor.”
Taking sides with the GGCF and EGCF, Mrs. Benjamin stressed on the need for a running water system in all schools to boost a conducive learning environment and enhance the girls’ confidence in staying in school during that time of the month when it’s all red.
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