By Talatu Maiwada
As the World commemorates World Menstrual Hygiene Day, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an NGO, has called on government at all levels to provide sanitary environment in schools to improve menstrual hygiene practice.
Mrs Stella Achebe, Prevention Coordinator of AHF, made the appeal at Chinnakwe International School, Daki Biu, a suburb of Abuja, in commemoration of 2019 World Menstrual Hygiene Day.
Menstruation is the shedding of the lining of the uterus (womb), and is a natural process that is part of a woman’s reproductive health.
An average woman and girl starts their first period between the ages of 12 and 14, while some girls start as early as age eight, while others experience theirs as late as 18.
Achebe said the world menstrual hygiene day was an annual event celebrated on May 28 to create awareness for women and girls about menstrual hygiene.
She added that the day was also set aside to create a world in which women and girls are no longer limited by their periods.
“The menstrual hygiene day is of utmost important to us in AHF; it’s a day we reach out to young women and girls to introduce educative and encouraging practices, and products for menstruation.
“At AHF, we believe that girls need to be supported during their menstrual flow, with the menstrual materials such as disposable pads.
“We also advocate that government at all levels make menstrual hygiene a core policy to support girls in schools by providing clean water and toilets where they can change their sanitary towels conveniently.
“This will ensure they are protected and healthy, they will continue with their daily routine such as going to school as some students stay out of school during menstrual periods which affects their education,’’ Achebe said.
Mrs Christy Awonor, State Nursing Coordinator, AHF, said the day gives opportunity for young girls to be empowered and informed on menstrual hygiene, and how to care for their bodies and environment to avoid ill health and infertility in future.
“When girls get to a certain stage and they begin to menstruate, they feel ashamed of what is happening to their bodies, and not able to talk about it.
“According to UNESCO, in Africa one out of 10 girls drops out of school during menstruation, hence we urge government to provide free sanitary pads, water and soap in schools as children are been given free food.
“It is however important that schools, mothers and guardians talk about menstrual hygiene so that they know what to expect, how to care for themselves, and proper disposal of their sanitary pads,’’ she added.
Ms Stella Mba, Head Teacher, Chinnakwe International School, explained that menstruation was a natural phenomenon that women and girls experience monthly.
“Our girls need to be educated on how to care for their body when they are menstruating.
“Some of them use rags repeatedly and tissue paper during menstruation which is not good for their health.
“We however appreciate AHF for this laudable project for reaching out to schools such as ours to educate our girls on menstrual hygiene and how to care for their well-being.
“With the information that AHF has brought the children can take care of their bodies and maintain a good hygiene,’’ she said.
Ms Maquine Anita, an SS1 student of the school, appreciated AHF, for educating them on menstrual hygiene, noting that menstruation was not a taboo but a normal thing.
“AHF taught us that our sanitary pads should not last more than six to eight hours to avoid rashes, bad odour and infection.
“We must ensure we wash up at intervals when we want to change and to take bath regularly, Anita said.
Another student SS1 student of the school, Ms Morayo Adewoledudu, said: “AHF taught us how to maintain proper hygiene, washing of our private part, proper use of clean under wears and proper disposal of sanitary pads.’’
Highlight of the event includes distribution of sanitary pads to over 100 students.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation is a non-governmental organisation operational in 43 countries, including Nigeria and located in six states.