All over the globe, girls still approach puberty without the knowledge, tools, and support they need to grow up feeling confident. Many girls, irrespective of country and culture, experience a loss of self-esteem and personal strength with the onset of menstruation.
To make matters worse, many girls don’t have access to the products they need to manage their periods. This lack of access to period products is often referred to as ‘period poverty and there is low awareness of its global prevalence.
It can lead to missing school, confidence-building activities, and other developmental experiences. This can limit a girl’s potential and opportunities far beyond puberty.
Globally, nonprofits are helping girls get an education on period poverty while providing free or affordable alternatives as they fight period poverty.
In commemoration of Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021, celebrated globally on May 28, we highlighted three Nigerian women fighting period poverty.
Oluwadamilola Adesanya-Afolayan is a licensed physiotherapist and the founder of the Royal Gem Initiative.
READ ALSO: ‘We are breaking silence on menstruation’
In March 2021, she pioneered “THE A+ ACADEMY”, a platform where young girls are educated on their sexual and reproductive health with a strong focus on menstrual health. This academy is on a mission to enlighten the girl child about her sexual health, debunking all myths concerning it.
Before the launch of The A+ Academy, Oluwadamilola and her team undertook several projects which included the “Menstrual Hygiene Campaign” where sanitary pads were distributed to over 1,000 girls in Lagos.
This outreach has succeeded in providing free sanitary pads, period trackers, and bathing soaps to girls in Ikorodu, Surulere, and Apapa communities in Lagos.
Oluwadamilola is very passionate about sexual and reproductive health education for girls because she has seen and witnessed the havoc being ignorant and wrongly informed can cause especially in the lives of young female children and adolescents.
According to her, establishing the A+ ACADEMY was borne out of a burden to help young girls gain more knowledge, so that they can be well informed and enlightened about normal and abnormal body changes associated with their reproductive system especially during menstruation.
Raquel Kasham Daniel is a multiple award-winning social entrepreneur educator and the founder of Beyond the Classroom Foundation.
On Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020, she unveiled her book Title “FLOW: a girl’s guide to menstruation. The central aim of the book is to eradicate ignorance in young girls about Menstruation and to also demystify myths centered on Menstruation. FLOW, a girl’s guide to menstruation has over 5,000 copies in print and is currently distributed in Nigeria and Ghana.
Before the launch of FLOW, Raquel Daniel and her team embarked on numerous projects like “Project Red Robots” through which they have distributed sanitary pads to over 20,000 girls across Nigeria.
Through the Pads in a Pandemic project, her team partnered with Together for Needs Initiative, Sanitary Aid initiative, Abuja Global Sharpers, and Socially Africa to provide free sanitary pads, underwear to girls in Lagos, Kogi State, and an IDP Camp in Abuja.
We spoke to Raquel who says she is passionate about sexual and reproductive health education for girls because she knows what it means not to have a sanitary pad to manage period.
She wrote her book FLOW to help young girls gain more knowledge, so they don’t welcome their first period with anxiety and little knowledge of menstruation.
Mayowa Adegbile is a passionate social worker and a social innovator with hands-on experience in business management, program planning and implementation, brand management, logistics/event coordination, and social media coordination.
Mayowa is very passionate about the menstrual hygiene of young girls as she has seen first-hand the effects of not having sanitary towels especially for girls with heavy flow.
She and her team have been involved through the Daughters of widows intervention and community change initiative project for over five years now in Nigeria and for every intervention, she and her team always spoke about the effects of proper menstrual hygiene and has donated pads to over 500 young girls in Abuja.
According to Mayowa “menstrual hygiene is not a luxury and it shouldn’t be in our communities. It simply should be allowed to be what it is; a necessity.
“When women and girls who menstruate do not have the education or resources to manage their periods safely, they often resort to using unsafe materials like rags which can cause physical health challenges.”
In Nigeria, stigma already stops women and girls who menstruate from talking openly about menstruation and sanitary pads which is why these women have chosen to be their voice and their initiatives aim to have these hard but necessary conversations.
In the Northern region, for example, period poverty, which is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand-washing facilities, and waste management is high and this impacts greatly on the reproductive health of women and girls.
These women are challenging the government to put menstrual hygiene at the heart of any emergency response in Nigeria.