Ending Stigma, Empowering Future:

Bridging the Gap in Menstrual Health By Opara Thelma

On any given day, millions of females around the world have their periods. Menstruation, a normal and natural process is as old as humanity itself. And yet millions of girls feel ashamed, embarrassed, or ostracized simply because they bleed.

Menstrual health remains a significant yet often overlooked aspect of women’s well-being, and in many parts of the world, including Nigeria, it continues to be shrouded in stigma and inadequate access to resources. The societal stigma associated with menstruation perpetuates silence, limiting open discussions and hindering progress towards ensuring proper menstrual health management.

Period stigma also known as menstruation stigma, is a broad term for the discrimination faced by people who menstruate.

Menstrual hygiene is an under-discussed topic, especially at the household and community level. When girls can’t afford to pay for menstrual hygiene products, they must resort to cheaper but unhygienic options such as rags, toilet paper, and old newspapers. Research shows that poor menstrual hygiene has harmful effects on a woman’s sexual reproductive health — including increasing their risk for reproductive and urinary tract infections, which can result in future infertility and birth complications.

Increased public awareness, sensitization, and education at the grassroots level are necessary to improve the knowledge of individuals on myths and norms that segregate women on their menstrual periods.

The Menstrual Health Landscape in Nigeria

Nigeria, with its diverse cultural and social landscape, is home to millions of women and girls facing challenges related to menstrual health. Stigma, misinformation, and inadequate resources contribute to a situation where menstruation is often treated as a taboo subject. Many girls face shame and embarrassment during their menstrual cycles, leading to potential negative impacts on their education and overall well-being.

Inadequate sanitation facilities can force girls to miss school during their periods, negatively affecting their educational progress. This, in turn, contributes to a cycle of limited opportunities for women and girls.

The Impact on Education

One of the significant consequences of the menstrual health gap in Nigeria is its impact on education. Girls who lack access to proper menstrual hygiene management facilities are more likely to miss school during their periods. This absenteeism can lead to a decline in academic performance and, eventually, higher dropout rates. To address this, there is a crucial need for the implementation of menstrual health education programs in schools, ensuring that girls are informed about their bodies and have access to necessary resources.

Empowering Women and Girls

Empowering women and girls involve not only providing them with the knowledge and resources needed for proper menstrual hygiene but also breaking down the societal barriers and stigmas surrounding menstruation.

Community involvement and awareness campaigns that aims to sensitize girls on menstrual hygiene, offer consultations for girls with infections related to poor menstrual hygiene like the PAD HER FOR THE FUTURE are essential components of such initiatives.

PAD HER FOR THE FUTURE, an initiative by TSEMF, stands as a beacon of empowerment for girls in underprivileged communities. This program is designed to address the critical issues surrounding menstrual hygiene, ensuring that girls not only have access to sanitary pads but also receive vital medications, medical consultations and advanced support for menstrual hygiene-related diseases.

TSEMF in collaboration with Citizen Participation Awareness and Advancement Initiative has scheduled a Medical Outreach for PAD A GIRL program to hold on the 9th of December 2023 in Gwako Community, Gwagwalada Area Council, FCT.

Consultation, open discussions, education and empowerment are all part of the outlined activities for this program that will help eradicate the stigma associated with menstrual health.

Government and NGO Interventions

NGOs can complement governmental efforts by conducting awareness campaigns, distributing menstrual hygiene products to vulnerable communities, and providing education on menstrual health. Collaborative efforts between the government, NGOs, and local communities are essential to achieving sustainable change.

Conclusion:

Addressing menstrual health challenges in Nigeria requires a complicated approach that combines education, advocacy, and infrastructure development. By ending the stigma associated with menstruation, empowering women and girls with knowledge and resources, and fostering an environment of acceptance, Nigeria can ensure a healthier and more dignified future for all its citizens. The collaborative efforts of government bodies, NGOs, communities, and individuals are crucial in bridging the gap in menstrual health and paving the way for a more inclusive and empowered society.