Period Poverty: How menstruation makes Nigerian girls miss school
Health experts and advocates have named “period poverty” as the main reason that young girls routinely stay away from school, especially in developing countries.
Period poverty is when a girl cannot afford menstrual products during menstruation, which is approximately four days every four weeks. Such girls would often resort to unhygienic practices.
Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) – the practice of using sanitary materials to absorb menstrual blood that can be changed privately, safely, hygienically, and as often as needed – is a sore subject.
Many adolescent girls in developing countries lack appropriate information, means or materials, and access to the right sanitary facilities to manage menstruation. Hence, they adopted unsafe hygienic practices during menstruation that in turn has a negative impact on their dignity, health, and education. Thus, harvestingstars international Youths foundation aimed to educate young girls in the practices of menstrual hygiene management and associated factors especially among secondary school girls in Nigeria.
Menstruation is a recurrent, normal physiological phenomenon in women’s reproductive life. However, many school girls in developing countries confront different menstrual hygiene management (MHM) challenges. Adequate MHM is defined as “women and adolescent girls using a clean menstrual management material to absorb or collect blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period, using soap and water for washing the body as required, and having access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials”.
In developing countries, nevertheless, many girls cannot access or afford appropriate sanitary materials and often use inferior products such as new or old cloth, cotton wool, toilet paper, underwear alone, sponge, or nothing. Additionally, MHM is constrained by inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities in many school settings in developing countries. Survey performed in five sub-Saharan African countries including Nigeria also showed that majority of adolescent girls reported a lack of safe, private, and clean toilets with washing facilities at schools which is important for MHM practices.
It was investigated that unhygienic practices during menstruation increase the risk of reproductive and genitor-urinary tract infection. Accordingly, several studies reported infections related to unsafe MHM practices among women and adolescent girls Menstruation and MHM-related problems adversely affect girls’ school attendance and school performance. The study performed in sub-Saharan African countries revealed that on average, 49% of the school girls missed four school days monthly due to menstruation. Similarly, other studies in Bangladesh and Indonesia revealed that 41% of school girls missed an average of 2.8 school days and 11.1% of school girls missed at least one school day during their last menstruation period, respectively. Furthermore, studies identified that many school girls claimed difficulty of concentration and limited participation during class times due to discomfort and humiliation during menstruation. Besides, MHM practices among school girls can affect multiple areas across the sustainable development goal (SDG) agenda including health, education, and gender equality and women empowerment.
Like many developing countries, in Nigeria, MHM remains one of the main problems faced by school girls while they are in school. Despite enormous challenges related to menstrual hygiene, adequate attention was not given by the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), sexual and reproductive health, and education sectors. Nigeria is a country of vast socio-cultural diversity and taboos that have an impact on MHM practices. Thus, it is important to identify the practices of MHM to intervene accordingly. However, there is scarce information about MHM practices in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas.
- To help young girls from poor homes who struggle to buy sanitary pads get free sanitary pads regularly
- To organize seminars, and talk shops, where young girls will be educated on hygienic menstrual management
- Organize road shows to create awareness
- To reduce the rate of school dropouts as a result of menstrual period complications.
- To distribute free treated sanitary pads to girls in schools
- In Nigeria, more than 40% girls leaves school because of menstrual pains/cramps.
- One in 10 schools-age African girls don’t attend school during menstruation,
- The average duration of period is 4-7 days every month which means girls miss 36-63 school days every 9 months.
- Over 2 billion womenacross the world who do not have access to basic sanitation during their periods, according to a study.
- The National Democracy and Health Survey 2013, revealed that girls make up 60 per cent of the 10.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria.
PERIOD PAINS: How the monthly cycle keeps young girls out of school and kills their dreams.