28th May 2019 is Menstrual Hygiene Day. Education as a Vaccine (EVA) in collaboration with The SING Foundation conducted a menstrual hygiene outreach to students of the Government Girls Secondary School in Bwari, a local community in Abuja, Nigeria. The outreach was carried out to provide young girls with information on appropriate menstrual hygiene practice.
Many young girls tend to miss school, self-medicate and refrain from social interactions during their menstrual periods. They often experience feelings of shame and their relatives and teachers are usually not prepared to respond to them at this critical stage of their biological development. Furthermore, there is poor access to affordable and hygienic menstrual products which leads girls and women to use old rags, clothes and other unhygienic materials. All these issues can lead to misconceptions, unhygienic practices and increased risk and incidence of infection – especially reproductive tract infections.
In addition, there are taboos and stigmas attached to menstruation in communities which promote a culture of silence and results in limited information on menstruation and menstrual hygiene. Such inadequacies have consequences on the health and dignity of girls and women.
To ensure that every girl in Nigeria can thrive and be comfortable on her period, it is important that girls grow in an environment where menstruation is seen as healthy and normal.
“I had always considered irregular period as a serious health challenge, but after this sensitisation, I learned that it could be normal at an early stage of the menstrual circle. It is the way your body regulates. It is not abnormal to see your menstruation this month, and it does not come next month. It was very enlightening and we hope to see EVA next time”. Rosemary Anthony, SS1 Student of Government Girls Secondary School, Dutse
The outreach was carried out to educate in-school girls to live their menstrual period with dignity, as well as empower them to build self-confidence and break the taboos around menstruation. In one of the sessions, EVA’s Program Officer, Habiba Ghazali reiterated the need for menstrual hygiene and proper disposal of menstrual waste. She outlined some of the signs and symptoms girls experience during their menstruation, provided recommendations, and shared techniques they can use to track their period. They were introduced to DIVA EVA’s Period Tracker App that supports young girls to plan for better menstrual health management.
Tolulope Oyetunde – EVA’s Program Intern, highlighted some tips on how to maintain menstrual hygiene, and the dos and don’ts of
menstruation. She mentioned important practices during the menstrual period as; regular change of pad, proper cleaning of the reusable pad, constant use of clean underwear, and keeping the vaginal area clean. The students were also taught on how to use a colour-coded CycleBeads to count their menstrual cycle so their periods do not meet them unprepared.
To wrap the day up, a Question-and-Answer session was organized to improve understanding of menstruation. It led to the distribution of sanitary pads at no cost for the students. EVA will continue to provide timely and accurate information to young people, especially adolescent girls and young women to keep up with menstrual hygiene.