By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
In commemoration of the 2021 World Menstrual Hygiene Day, the Ministry of Women Affairs Friday, instituted a ‘Pad Bank’ in the Ministry, which is expected to serve as a model for all public institutions to give women and girls access to pad in times of emergencies.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen during the launch, said the idea of the bank is to enable girls anywhere and everywhere, especially in Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Hotels, Banks and even in supermarkets and open markets, to have access to pad when they suddenly experience their monthly flow which can come at any point in time without warning.
The Menstrual Hygiene Day which was marked in the Ministry’s headquarters in Abuja, brought together partners from the public and private sectors to advocate for normalizing the action of menstruation and the importance of assessing hygiene during this period.
Giving her remarks, Dame Tallen pointed out that the theme, “It’s time for action” to ensure girls and women do not feel limited by their periods through increased education and menstrual hygiene, emphasizes the need for a joint action to promote good menstrual health and hygiene management and break stigmas that exist around young girls and women during their menstrual cycle.
In her words, “Globally, girls are forced to miss school due to lack of sanitary items. According to UNICEF, one in 10 African girls skip school during menstruation, this has caused some to drop out entirely because this monthly pattern of missing out on education has devastating long term effects, not only in terms of educational development, but also on the psyche of young girls and women”.
She further noted that inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities, particularly in public places, such as in schools, workplaces, or health centers, can pose a major obstacle to women and girls, adding that in many countries, including Nigeria where schools do not have adequate sanitation facilities, adolescent girls are also likely to miss school, while they are in their periods.
The Minister emphasized that investing in interventions to empower young girls to manage their periods safely, hygienically, with confidence and without stigma, so that they continue to attend and perform well in school once they start puberty is not just the moral thing to do, but it also makes economic sense.
She therefore urged stakeholders to join hands together in the crusade to empower the girl-child to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence, and without shame.
According to her, “Breaking the stigma and silence that exists around menstruation calls for collaboration from relevant stakeholders to ensure infrastructure enablers such as water supply, sanitation, hand washing facility, toilet facilities and an environmentally safe and hygienic disposal system are put in place for healthy management of menstruation.
“I am pleased to launch the Menstrual Pad Bank to take care of emergencies most women face during menstruation and call on others to replicate this in their organizations”, she stated.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Anthonia Ekpa, said the celebration is an annual event to raise awareness in breaking the silence on Menstrual Hygiene issues, providing space for free expression of concerns and demand for a supportive and protective environment for the effective and hygienic management of menstruation.
She noted that it is also aimed at educating the public, young girls and women of reproductive age on appropriate means of managing their cycles in a dignified manner without shame, adding that menstruation is a fundamental issue of human rights, dignity, and public health for every woman.
She gave the assurance that the Ministry will continue to sustain the campaign to ensure that girls are prepared for the changes their body goes through monthly.
“We will encourage schools to make sanitary pads available to cover girls who are unprepared for their menstruation. Pads not being made available impact on the productivity of the girls in school and so, we will continue to push for sanitary pads to be made not only cheap but available”, she noted.
The Ministry also unveiled a comprehensive survey/stakeholder mapping and analysis on Menstrual Health Hygiene Management (MHHM) in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, development partners and MDAs such as UNICEF, UNWomen, Action Against Hunger, WaterAid, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Labor and others, called for collective efforts to ensure that women have access to clean toilet facilities or a convenient place to manage their period in workplaces, schools, or while in transit, and also pledged their commitments to do more to put an end to the challenges girls face during their period.