A Non-Governmental Organization, the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) has distributed sanitary pads to about 600 school girls across Lagos, Ogun and Rivers States. This is in commemoration of the World Menstrual Hygiene Day which held on May 28.
The schools visited were Perfect Praise Schools, Olowora, Isheri, Lagos State; Champions International Schools, Magboro, Ogun State; and Community Secondary School, Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The events witnessed talks on Menstrual Hygiene Management, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and prevention tips as well as free distribution of sanitary products to the school girls. They were also shown CEE-HOPE’s documentary on period poverty titled Give Us This Day Our Monthly Pads and another video talk on period poverty by Zsanai Epps, Program Director, My Sister’s Keeper at Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Positive Period, USA.
At the schools in Lagos and Ogun States, CEE-HOPE’s Executive Director, Betty Abah noted that the sensitization outreaches were organized with the aim of reaching out to school girls on menstrual hygiene practice and also distribution of pads as a measure of addressing period poverty among teenage girls.
Abah also noted that, “it is also to draw attention to the rampant period poverty in the country and continue the group’s pressure on the Nigerian government to initiate a policy of free distribution of sanitary products as is done in countries around the world including African countries like Kenya and Uganda.”
“Millions of school girls from impoverished homes are finding it hard to stay in school as they cannot afford sanitary products, a reality which further widens the gender inequality in terms of education. It is high time our government did something about this menace, even starting from a policy as simple as tax reduction or tax removal on sanitary products,’’ she said. According to Abah, the sensitization was also aimed at engaging the students in frank talks on how to prevent rape as it is also a rampant menace targeting mostly teenage girls.
Sola Alamutu, a gender advocate and founder of Jabez Place, a sexual violence prevention organisation, also enlightened the girls on Preventing Rape and Sexual Abuse, stressing on the need to understand that, “anyone can be a victim of rape, regardless of gender, age or race and it is important to note that anyone can be a perpetrator, regardless of relationship, gender or age.” She urged the students to be security and safety-conscious at all times and possibly take trainings on martial arts and self-defence skills.
Willie Workman Oga, a film maker and activist, sensitized the girls on staying focused on their dreams and avoiding traps that may obstruct their roads to life’s success.
On her part, Edidiong Umoh, Project Officer at CEE-HOPE, spoke to the girls in details on how to maintain the highest levels of hygiene during their monthly period in order to avoid infection and general unhygienic environment around them.
There were also question and answer sessions in the various school sessions.
The Port Harcourt leg of the sensitization outreach was coordinated by Ekaete George, Director of the NGO, Red Eyes Development Initiative (REDI) and held at the Community Secondary School, RumuOlumeni. Other speakers included Princess Ijeoma Ozor, Executive Director of the King Charles Memorial Foundation and Grace Okezie. They touched on GBV, Menstrual Hygiene and on the rights of the girl child.
The school girls, school owners and other officials were full of gratitude for the initiative and expressed their excitement over information that were shared during the sensitizations.
Uzorechi Oluwaluyi, the Proprietress of Perfect Praise School, Lagos, appreciated CEE-HOPE for the gesture which according to her has impacted positively on the girls considering their relative lack of exposure to holistic sensitization on menstrual hygiene talks.
“People don’t talk about menstruation issues often and we have seen cases where mothers don’t talk to their girls about it, they are ashamed to talk about it and this is a great opportunity for these girls to learn about all these issues,” she said.
According to Jegede Anjola, an SS3 student of Champions International Schools, Ogun State, ‘For the first time, I learnt that there are ways the government can make pads available to school girls and this is an initiative that they should imbibe to address some of the challenges that we are faced with as young girls.”
Also sharing her delight about the program, Ande Ogar, an SS 3 student of Perfect Praise School, Lagos, said, “I’ve learnt from this program that I should uphold personal hygiene during menstruation as that can help a girl to be more confident. I also learnt to walk in company of others when going out at night to avoid a rape situation.’’
Bertha George, a JSS 3 teacher and counsellor for the students at Port Harcourt, commended CEE-HOPE for the event and asked for more of such seminars for her students. “This is a community school, these kinds of opportunities make great impact of the students. Thank you, please come back again soon,’ she said.
Abah thanked the individuals who funded the three-state outreaches across the three Nigerian states.