I can still remember my first period two decades ago. A few months prior, an Always team had come to my secondary school in Sapele, Delta State, to give us preteen girls a lecture on what to expect when our first periods came. After the talk, we were each given a little pamphlet with more information about menstrual health and hygiene that included a calendar to track cycles, as well as a sample pack of Always with just two pads inside. Beyond being cute, this meant that I already had sanitary pads to use by the time my period started on a school day, even before my mom bought me any.
With Nigeria in a recession, embracing frugality is helpful and recommended, but there are things that frugality can’t deal with. One of them is the cost of sanitary pads in Nigeria today. Women and girls simply cannot opt out of their periods. Barring pregnancy or ovulatory disorders, menses will occur every month and the flow must be dealt with.
Have you ever wondered how poor secondary school girls are coping with the costs of sanitary pads? What about displaced women in IDP camps? How do they maintain hygiene when their period comes around?
Sanitary pad costs range from ₦350 to ₦1800, and most women need at least two for each monthly period. Women with good income still feel the pinch, how much more economically challenged women?
Oghenekaro Omu, who tweets via @duchesskk, has decided to do something about this issue. She is currently reaching out to Nigerians to pitch in and support less privileged women and girls who are no doubt having a rough time with menstrual hygiene especially in this economy.
“I just imagine what these girls have to go through every month to have access to sanitary towels. Especially girls from low-income families and those in the IDP camps. Particularly the girls in IDP camps because most times we focus on food,” Karo says concerning the motivation for this drive. “What about their hygiene and sanitary products?”
Using the hashtag #SanitaryAidForNigerianGirls, Karo is calling for donations towards monthly sanitary supplies for these girls. “The aim is to make sure that everyone has access because these items are important to the girl child.”
So how is it going to work? “The plan is to get packs of sanitary pads to as many girls as possible for as long as possible. For now we’ve identified 2 IDP camps and 3 schools we intend to start with. Obviously, it’s dependent on funds but we intend to partner with some of the manufacturers and see how they are willing to help,” she says. “My vision is to help as many girls as possible. This is a huge task but I’ve decided to start small.”
Karo is also aware that when it comes to things pertaining to welfare, it’s important to think long-term. “This is not a one-off thing. The goal is to make it monthly; maybe many years from now, we would have built a network that gets to even rural areas to provide them with lessons on hygiene and free sanitary towels.”
Just hours after Karo went on social media with #SanitaryAidForNigerianGirls, kind-hearted Nigerians responded swiftly despite the economic situation in the country. “The response has been tremendous. I’m overwhelmed and grateful.”
May 28th is Menstrual Hygiene Day, but today is as good a day as any to bring relief to a distressed girl. Periods are already uncomfortable and messy enough without the added stress of worrying over hygiene.