A primary part of human rights is the right to adequate health services, including menstrual health. Globally, over 500 million women and girls lack sufficient facilities for menstrual hygiene management. In Nigeria, 25% of girls and women lack adequate privacy to menstrual hygiene management.
The lack of proper menstrual hygiene management kits or tools is a huge problem that affects attendance in schools, businesses, and organizations due to the inability to manage their periods because of poor access to water, sanitation, and facilities.
One in 10 African girls misses school during their period meaning they fall behind in their studies, ultimately causing them to drop out.
In this article, you will learn the issues surrounding absenteeism in schools, access to sanitary pads, health concerns associated with poor menstrual hygiene management, and improvements to menstrual hygiene management.
Issues surrounding absenteeism in schools
The right to health for girls and women includes the availability of water and awareness of health information regarding menstrual health while having access to clean, soft, absorbent sanitary products. However, in Nigeria, sexual and reproductive health is less exercised.
Due to lack of menstrual hygiene products, many girls put their lives on hold when they get their period. In some places where menstruation is associated with stigma, girls feel embarrassed, they usually exclude themselves from school and other social activities.
School absenteeism issues are a lack of functional and segregated toilets, limited information on menstrual hygiene management, and limited availability of sanitary materials, such as pads.
Access to sanitary pads
Did you know that over 37 million Nigerian girls and women of reproductive age lack access to menstrual hygiene products due to high costs?
Period poverty makes it difficult for girls and women to access sanitary pads. Health experts and advocates have confirmed that period poverty is the main reason why so many young girls routinely stay away from school, especially in developing countries.
An average of one pack made up of eight or ten sanitary pads is used by women and girls during each menstrual cycle, but many indigent girls and women are forced to use unsafe products instead.
In Nigeria, sachets or small plastic pouches contain only two pads, widely distributed as an affordable option. In wealthier countries, the sachet could be considered a convenient, portable alternative, but it is seen as something more concerning in Nigeria.
The sanitary pads in the small packs do not represent convenience. They are a more challenging choice because some women cannot afford or cover their whole period cycle.
Sanitary pads are expensive and often inaccessible, so many girls resort to managing their periods with paper, pieces of clothing, or rags making it difficult and often unclean and uncomfortable.
These poor menstrual hygiene practices make many girls feel embarrassed, so they tend to ask for permission to leave school and stay home, which causes a decline in their academic performance or even wholly drop out of school.
The well-being and health is a problem due to lack of resources associated with menstrual hygiene management. There are many girls and women that are unaware of the consequences when using unhygienic products during their period because of poverty.
In many communities there is a lack of clean water that also contributes to unhealthy period practices. Unsafe period practices and muddy water can lead to health implications including urinary tract infections and other infections in reproductive organs.
In severe cases, it may cause infertility, exposed to virus infections, or toxic shock sepsis. Making it essential to find solutions for better menstrual hygiene management and access to proper resources such as sanitary pads and clean water.
Federal and local governments have appeared to be lukewarm when tackling period poverty; however, World Menstrual Health and Hygiene Day an annual awareness day is a global platform for good.
It brings together nonprofits, government agencies, individuals, the private sector, and the media have been advocating and taking action toward a world where no one is held because of menstruating.
Some Nigerian government departments and agencies have opened pad banks for the use of female staffers. The initiative is catered toward emergencies while working and is aimed to create more awareness about menstrual hygiene.
Also, many young Nigerians have been calling on the government to reduce or stop taxing female hygiene products.
Recently, there has been significant progress around menstrual health and hygiene management in Nigeria through policies, including the National Diaper and Sanitary Pads Policy.
This policy has increased the import of diapers and sanitary pads from 20 percent to 55 percent providing availability, and affordability for those lacking sanitary pads in the country.
Some Nonprofits have been making progress in helping young girls tackle period poverty in Nigeria, and one such nonprofit is UNICEF. It has been helping girls feel comfortable and manage their periods by holding week-long training programs.
These programs teach girls how to use sewing machines and locally sourced materials to create sanitary hygiene products.
Another Nonprofits helping is the Emmanuel Osemota Foundation (EOF). EOF works with local communities, schools, and governments to research and obtain information about menstruation to promote positive hygiene habits and break down taboos.
EOF provides educational supplies, and menstrual products to schools in some of the country’s poorest communities.
Helping the future
Everyone who has a period has the right to have access to menstrual hygiene management and health education. Menstruation should not be a barrier to girls’ attendance at school. Girls should never feel embarrassed or have health issues because of their period.
Collaborating and continuing to run initiatives to improve menstrual hygiene management and providing sufficient resources will encourage girls to have educational opportunities, health, and social status.
Written by: Emmanuel J. Osemota