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Everyday Hero: Oghenekaro Omu

The power of Social media cannot be overemphasized. From a tweet, a vision that has helped over 8000 girls around Nigeria was born. On the 15th of January 2017, Karo learned that the prices of sanitary products had increased by more than 100% and she immediately thought of how it would impact the underprivileged girls who had barely been able to get access to these products. And she decided to do something about it. She sent out a tweet saying: 

“Going to put together funds to buy girls in public secondary schools& IDP camps sanitary pads for next month. Hit me up if you want to help.”

The rest is becoming part of history.

Karo and the Gang

The implications of what she had set out to do became obviously bigger than she thought. In order to cope, she put together a team of 6: Gabriella Scott, Cynthia Ndeche, Tolani Thomas, Alexa Chukwumah, Ifeyinwa Mbanugo and Olamide Odukoya; with a group of other eager volunteers. The initiative raised about a million naira within a week, from crowd-sourcing on Twitter alone. This group of women had the primary task of delivering sanitary pads in Internally Displaced Persons camps and public schools in Lagos, Jos and Abuja states (at least, for starters).

Karo and the S.A.N.G.

A report from UNESCO estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during her menstrual cycle due her inability to access affordable sanitary products, and conversations about menstrual periods are almost abominable discussion in Nigeria. To complicate that further, because our country is in a recession, the prices of everything, including sanitary products, has doubled. It was one such discussion that inspired Oghenekaro (Karo) Omu, a social media & brand specialist, to start the Sanitary Aid for Nigerian Girls initiative (S.A.N.G)

The initiative’s main goal is to address the needs of 65% of the Nigerian female population who do not have access to sanitary pads. This, Karo has pointed out, can only be done through female health advocacy — getting the Government to cater to young girls in the country by giving them sanitary pads for free or at a large discount, even to the point where the organization becomes redundant.

Karo and her team have so far raised N1.3 million and distributed sanitary pads to over 1,500 women and girls across 3 schools and an IDP camp in Jos. Recently, the initiative has planned to give sanitary products to at least 1,000 women and girls in Borno. They also aimed at reaching up to 15,000 girls in Lagos, Ogun, Abuja, Plateau and Borno.

According to Karo, the futuristic plan is to make sanitary education part of communities especially low income ones with limited exposure. The goal is to reach up to a million girls with both sanitary hygiene education & free pads. To achieve this, her team has approached brands to partner with them and some of them like Microsoft have been very interested in coming on board.

Karo is a humanitarian at heart; she’s been very involved in providing aid and food to IDP camps across Nigeria. On her experience on this journey, Karo says:

“I’ve always wanted to do things for other people. Every project is different. I used to want to have everything in place before starting but this project was different.”

In addition to that, she states,

“I was determined to do it with or without help. Imagine my surprise when everyone that heard about the project saw the relevance. Every girl we reach is a big deal because their stories are different. We get asked all sorts of questions. For some girls it’s their first time owning a pack of pads.”

The S.A.N.G. initiative now holds monthly Sanitary Drives, where donors can give donations or sanitary products such as pads, tampons, wipes, soap, towels, toilet bags, and undergarments to support girls from low-income families and females in IDP camps across Nigeria. She and her team also teach the girls about menstrual hygiene, handing out the S.A.N.G Period Handbook which teaches girls the basics of menstrual hygiene.

More recent statistics has it that, Sanitary Aid Initiative has given out near 11,000 pads to girls and women across 9 Nigerian states – all in under 24 months.

Sources:

Konbini

Pulse NG

Featured Image Source: Pulse NG

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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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