ChinyereMaduka (not her real names) usually skips school whenever she ismenstruating. A student of one of thesecondary schools in Enugu, the Enugu state capital, Chinyere has littleknowledge about a woman’s menstrual cycle.
When a woman menstruates, there is aflow of blood from her womb, usually once a month. This is a naturalphenomenon, but Chinyere mistakenly regard this monthly occurrence as a taboo,and, therefore, stays away from school.
And to compound her problem,Chinyere is short of money to buy sanitary pad, and even when the money isavailable, she lacks sufficient knowledge about menstrual hygiene.
This is not an isolated case. According to Ogene Ogbodo Jude, executivedirector, Town Crier Initiative Africa (TCIA) a Non-Governmental Organisation(NGO), many secondary school girls, as well as teenage girls outside the schoolsystem are bereft of adequate information concerning menstruation, and use ofsanity pads.
Speaking at this year’s WorldMenstrual Hygiene Day held in Enugu on May 28, Ogbodo, called for the inclusionof menstrual/sex education in the school curriculum, as well as making itmandatory for all schools to have pad banks, basically for the benefit of thegirl-child.
He also called on the FederalGovernment to remove Value Added Tax (VAT) from menstrual products, saying that“by so doing pad can be easily accessible to all.
According to Jude, “men and boysshould get involved in generating discussion around menstruation; and should imbibein themselves the spirit of acquiring sanitary kits for their children, wards,friends, class/workmate, and spouses.” .
TCIA focuses on promoting access to education,water sanitation and hygiene (WASH); as well as encouraging skill acquisition,self-empowerment, and promoting access to medical information and medicaltreatment.
Speaking further, Jude said: “when we started working in the schools, wefound out that the girl-child doesn’t really miss school because she can’t payschool fees,
“We found out also that the girl-child misses school because she can’t afford to buy some menstrual kits. Shedoesn’t have WASH facilities in the school to manage. So, if we must promote education, we mustwork on health, and we must work on WASH.
“We also found out that menstrual hygiene isalways being silent. It is an issue that nobody is talking about. We just thought that the best thing we coulddo is to have a discussion around this menstruation issue.
“We found out that men are not evengetting fully involved in this issue. So, it looked like women issue alone.
“So, we decided that the best thingto do is: bring the youths together in generating this discussion to see how wecan end the stigma, the taboos and norms surrounding menstrual hygiene.”
According to Jude, the organization hassensitized about 5,000 girls from more than15 schools in Enugu state in the past three years on menstrual hygiene, as wellas given them kits too.
“We now have a generation where menare getting informed on how they can help the female in tackling the issue.
“We have nurses, pharmacists,community workers in our midst, and we have medical doctors in ourorganization. So, the organization isnot necessarily about the executive director. It’s a team work. We have atleast 70 active volunteers in four different states.
“We work in Anambra, Plateau, Enugustates, and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Even today May 28), our team in Anambra andAbuja went to the field, but because of school, we are here today to haveinternal discussions.
The day witnessed a menstrualhygiene hang-out with participants made up of boys. They spent most of the day discussing onmenstrual hygiene, and learning how to make reusable and disposable pads.
“We explained to them that there isnothing wrong with menstruation. Wetold the boys and girls gathered here that it is a natural phenomenon. And that is the truth. Unfortunately, many parents have notexplained to the girl-child what menstruation is all about.
“We have actually broken the silence onmenstruation,” s Henry Dubem, Enugu State Coordinator of TCIA.