By Tosin Kolade
WaterAid Nigeria on Thursday called on all stakeholders to make pragmatic efforts break the stigma and taboos relating to menstruation in the Nigerian society.
Ms. Blessing Sani, WaterAid Communication and Advocacy Assistant, said this at a meeting of the Task Group on Sanitation in Abuja.
According to her, menstrual hygiene management in the country concerns issues pertaining to human rights infringement, social inclusion, education, health and livelihoods.
Sani, quoting a Joint Monitoring Programme Report, said that no fewer than 40 school days were often lost by girls due to absenteeism because of the lack of appropriate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in schools.
She said that menstrual hygiene management was a human rights issue, underscoring the need to provide water, soap and other WASH facilities for women and girls.
She said that there were certain cultural beliefs and myths about menstruation in the society, adding that these often portrayed women and girls as inferior to men and boys respectively.
According to her, the development reinforces gender inequality and often constitutes discrimination which has a negative impact on the fulfilment of the universal human rights of women and girls to dignity, health and education.
Sani said that WaterAid Nigeria recently carried out a study on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in Benue, Bauchi, and Plateau States.
She said that the goal of the study was to explore and evaluate existing MHM practices and the context that might impact positively or negatively on the implementation of a MHM programme in the country.
She said that the study revealed deeply rooted attitudes and myths about menstruation, including an erroneous belief that a menstruating woman or girl was cursed and possessed by evil spirits — the harbingers of bad luck.
“Such beliefs result in restrictions being placed on girls and women during their menstrual cycles, including their exclusion from attending religious services and even holding their infants.
“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,’’ she added.
Sani stressed that everyone must move away from the paradox 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 during their menstruation.