As the world commemorates Menstrual Hygiene Day, experts in the water sector in Nigeria have called for more awareness in Menstrual Hygiene Management in the country.
The country Representative of Water Aid in Nigeria, Dr Micheal Ojo said girls’ needs around menstruation have been neglected by health and education systems leading to inequity in education and missed opportunities for girls.
Dr Ojo, who made the call in Abuja, also emphasised the need to raise awareness of the challenges women and girls worldwide face due to their menstruation and promote the importance of menstrual hygiene management
“We are calling for cooperation with the education and health sectors as well as those working in reproductive and sexual health to ensure girls are prepared for the onset of menstruation, to ensure they can care for themselves in a dignified and hygienic way,” Dr Ojo said.
Cultural beliefs and myths about menstruation are perpetuated by society and often portray women and girls as inferior to men and boys. This reinforces gender inequalities, often constitutes discrimination and has a negative impact on the fulfilment of the universal human rights to dignity, health and education of women and girls.
To this end Dr Ojo said it has become imperative for people to dispel the myths and taboos that often accompany menstruation.
“In some communities in West Africa, women and girls are not allowed to use water sources and latrines during menstruation; the very facilities they need the most during this time. We must move away from the dichotomy of placing value on menstruation as a sign of fertility, celebrating the birth of new life and at the same time excluding women and girls and making them social pariahs during their time of menstruation. It’s about helping girls to have the confidence to manage their hygiene safely and with dignity and also to ensure that wherever they are, whether it’s at home, school or even in other public places,” he explained.
He noted that the provision of water and sanitation facilities which play an important role should be made available to women and girls to enable them manage their menstrual periods safely and hygienically.
“Proper menstrual hygiene management for women and girls requires inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools and public places; provision of protection materials at affordable rates; behavioural change and communication and a review of existing policies to address this important issue. Everyone has a role to play. At WaterAid Nigeria the integration of menstrual hygiene management in all of our sanitation and hygiene interventions with a focus on Equity and Inclusion, WASH in Schools and WASH & Health is critical,” he added.
Voice of Nigeria went to the streets of Abuja to sought the opinions of residents on the issue of Menstruation management some of them were of the opinion that by talking about periods, we can help normalise this natural process and help girls and women live healthier and more dignified lives.
While other said Menstrual Hygiene Management should be included in the school curriculum.
The Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated every May 28 of every year to affirm the urgent need to talk about periods and break the silence, taboos and negative social perceptions around menstruation and to remember and commit to doing something about the women and girls in the world without access to safe water and a safe toilet to manage their menstrual cycle.