Mr Ezeukoh Ebubechukwu is an Environmentalist who holds a Bachelor Degree in Urban and Regional Planning; Founder, Eziokwu Ebubechukwu Foundation (EEF). He is known for his achievements and contributions to the rural communities and suburbs. In this interview with CYRIACUS NNAJI, he stresses the need for Menstrual hygiene management and the need for the government to support and implement policies, targeted at free sanitary pad distribution while lifting taxation on sanitary products to assist the rural dwellers and vulnerable in the country.
Please share more insight on your foundation recent campaign in schools
The Eziokwu Ebubechukwu Foundation (EEF) is a growing humanitarian organization committed to fighting illiteracy by instituting social justice specifically focusing on the rural child. We seek to impact immensely on the lives of these children because we believe that the development of any individual starts at their childhood and giving the rural child the basic amenities to succeed would go a long way in their individual development and that of the country
Recently, as part of our annual program, we decided to reach out to students in rural communities for our Book Drive 2.0 initiative. This is not our first outreach to students. We have conducted a series of outreaches across rural communities in Lagos, Ogun, Anambra, Zamfara, Oyo, Rivers, Niger, Ondo, Abia amongst other states in the country. In this campaign, we decided to reach out to Osun and Anambra rural communities with the focus specifically on poor girl children.
We distributed over a thousand educational materials to students in this community after our period sensitization talks. We distributed over 300 sanitary pads to the girls in these communities.
Kindly share specific motivations that triggers reaching the girl child
Our foundation’s aim has always been to reach out to the grassroots, not just the grassroots but people who are more affected and marginalised based on different physical, health or financial circumstances. We decided to reach out to girls, especially young girls who are usually just coming of reproductive age and faced with the challenge of adapting to an unprecedented shift in their body and bodily functions hence, we decided to reach them through our outreach tagged Rural education bookdrive 2.0 “Her care” where we assisted with educational aids as well as health and social aid.
Tell us about menstrual hygiene and the need for its sustainability.
Menstrual hygiene refers to access to menstrual hygiene products to absorb or collect the flow of blood during menstruation, privacy to change the materials, and access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials. It is no longer a secret that the majority of biological women have periods; on the average, personal menstrual hygiene is decent, but the conditions that bring about this “decency “are very one-sided and tough on the girl, especially one, who is just starting out in this biological change in bodily functions which is why it is important to our foundation to help educate them properly on how to handle these new challenges because Access to safe and dignified menstruation is a fundamental need for every girl child.
With the shame on menstrual subjects, do you think menstrual hygiene management is pertinent?
Most certainly and this is one of the major driving forces behind outreaches like this. For something so natural, periods are illogically viewed with disdain and disgust even amongst women themselves. It is not only important to educate young girls on how to handle it properly and hygienically, but also teach young boys how to help their female counterparts during these times. As is the usual speak, we aim not just to help these girls but normalise periods and the issues associated with experiencing it.
What is menstrual management and what methodology can the girl child adopt to avert shaming?
Used loosely, menstrual management is just how women manage, both their physical and mental reactions during these times. It’s important to note that although there are great changes in how the biological woman’s body functions during this time, it’s expected of her to act and carry on as if nothing is wrong, why period shaming is quite unnecessary. There are no “methods” to adopt to avert shaming, because periods aren’t sometime to be ashamed of in the first place and this was a salient line in our rural sensitization, instead we sensitized students and teachers on how to be of help to a menstruating female and how to spread awareness on this education to their community at large.
How can the global stigmatization regarding menstruation be eradicated?
A lot of this stigma comes from ignorance and the inability of the society to see it as a normal and natural body function, not something to be disgusted by. These norms can be unlearned, why sensitization is important, not just for girls but boys also and the community which is why as a foundation we choose mixed schools to reach out to.
What advocacy tools do you think should be employed to promote menstrual hygiene?
As it is, especially in a country such as Nigeria, it is important that adults be sensitized to normalising these things as much as children. Beyond normalising they should educate and in some instances help (not shame) women/girls who are struggling with maintaining said hygiene. It is the adults that pass on norms and knowledge that the younger generation imbibes. In occasions such as outreaches like this, aid should be given.
Why did your foundation focus on Osun state secondary school?
As a foundation that believes in reaching out to the grassroots and dealing with salient issues that are faced in these areas, we went to Osun state based on the need to reach out to communities in suburban and rural areas . Unlike states such as; Lagos, some parts of Oyo and Ogun; where there seems to be an overflow of attention and resources to the people living there, we aim to reach communities that aren’t usually on the grid and effect change there in whatever way we can with available resources at our disposal. It is also noteworthy to say that we have executed projects in 13 states since the foundation was registered in 2019.
What is the economic impact of promoting menstrual hygiene?
As the popular saying goes “health is wealth” so is good hygiene.
Do you think the female hygiene sector requires collaborative efforts to liberate the girl child from the wrong perception?
Do you think schools and education centres should implement a course on menstrual hygiene management?
Not essentially, it is more of a social outlook issue than a curriculum issue hence; all hands must be on deck to break the norm of ignoring or shaming the girl child during their periods instead of helping them.
How can government and relevant agencies come in?
One of the major issues with period hygiene is that sanitary pads are not only expensive (especially with the current economic state of the country), but they also cannot be reused. It is important that tax be removed from products such as this, more local methods be normalised and product prices be regulated. It also would be of great help if the government gave free sanitary pads to teenage girls and girls in secondary schools.
Some cultural and religious sects bar menstruating females on access, what is your take on that?
These are majorly voluntary personal beliefs and as a foundation we respect people’s right to their personal beliefs.
What have been your experiences and challenges in the campaign project?
Sourcing for funds to execute the project was quite demanding because many individuals and corporations do not regard this issue as one that needs special attention. So it was quite difficult to finance. It was also difficult getting communities and students to respond positively to this issue, but thankfully in the areas we reached out to these challenges were surmounted.
Tell us about your foundation
The Eziokwu Ebubechukwu Foundation (EEF) is a growing humanitarian organization committed to fighting illiteracy by instituting social justice specifically focusing on the rural child. We seek to impact immensely on the lives of these children as we believe that the development of any individual starts at their childhood and giving the rural child the basic amenities to succeed would go a long way in their individual development and that of the country.
In working in close collaboration and partnership with the people, governments, NGOs, and international humanitarian bodies in these countries, EEF seeks to directly help the less privileged to live a life of dignity, enable them to improve their lives, and using their knowledge, skills, potentials and experience to influence the lives of others around them at the local and international level. All of this is aimed at reducing rural academic delinquency and institutionalizing social justice.