Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, our invited guests and partners,
It is with great pleasure to welcome you to this press conference organized by CATAI in collaboration with BOWDI and CASFOD on making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2023. CATAI as a youth led and women focused organization in celebration of the world Menstrual Hygiene Day which is being commemorated every 28th of May is holding this press conference alongside our partners to see how we can enlighten and create awareness on the importance of menstrual care among women and girls.
To end unhygienic menstruation and period poverty effective management of women and girl cycle has to do with the provision of good access to WASH facilities especially young school aged girls. This will also increase retention of young children in school making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030.
Menstruation is an essential and inevitable phenomenal for Nigeria’s 43 million women and girls of reproductive age, necessitating a human rights approach to menstrual hygiene management and development of a policy framework at national and state levels to safeguard this right.
In line with the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2 which hopes to ensure that, by 2030, there is access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, paying particular attention to the needs of women and girls in vulnerable situations.
Menstruating women and girls face a greater challenge of practicing menstrual health and hygiene in schools and their communities due to lack of WASH facilities and menstrual product which leads to a serious health risk such as reproductive and urinary tract infections.
According to research 1.8 billion people menstruate every month across the world and an estimate of 500 million girls and women don’t have access to menstrual product and are unable to manage their menstrual cycle in a dignified healthy way. Improper menstrual hygiene management and disposal facilities such as water, sanitary pads, bins, and gender-sensitive toilets especially in schools have caused a lot of girls to miss educational activities during their cycle.
Every Nigerian girl of reproductive age has a right to affordable menstrual hygiene products as an essential human need, however menstrual products are presently unaffordable to women and girls and other low-income women in vulnerable communities.
Menstrual hygiene products and mode of disposal is not easily assessable to every girl and women which have caused disease related illness to them due to the following factors;
i. Menstrual poverty
ii. Infections and diseases
iii. Sex for survival
iv. Lack of retention of girls in school
Our education system is collapsing by day with very high number of school dropout among which are girls, according to 2022 UNICEF report stated that currently in Nigeria 18.5 million are out of school children of which sixty percent are girls that is over 10 million girls are out of school which attributed to the high cost of sanitary pad, poor WASH facilities and unavailability in some locations.
Education has long been seen as a pivotal element within menstrual health. (Pre-)menstrual education provides a window of opportunity to educate adolescents about changes occurring in their body, the reproductive system, fertility, contraception, and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. It can also be an entry point to start the conversation on child marriages and how to prevent it.
It is therefore crucial to make menstrual education part of an expanded agenda for sexual and reproductive health rights and, in general, on women’s health through their life-cycle, with not merely a focus on the reproductive process but also on information about health issues that can affect them in different parts of their life.
Young girls in this region build their knowledge on menstrual hygiene from their own experience. We need to break the silence and bring change in beliefs and attitudes towards menstruation. We need to support girls especially those in the grassroots to overcome the barriers that prohibit them from managing menstruation with dignity. If girls are given the opportunity to have voice, choice, and power in their lives, they thrive. They need safe and open space where they can be better informed about their bodies and be confident to make their own choices.
As we recently concluded the handover to the new government, at the federal and state level while we acknowledge the effort of the government made so far, we strongly urge the government to prioritize the following:
- We are calling on the government to develop policies that guarantee the right of Nigerian women to menstrual hygiene, ensuring access to essential equipment, materials, and facilities that help protect their dignity and prevent health risks.
- We are calling on the Federal Government to support the development of the menstrual hygiene policy in Nigeria in accordance to the sustainable development goal.
- Government at all levels to prioritize providing public schools with adequate WASH facilities, free sanitary pads to all girls of reproductive age.
- Educational institutions to make menstrual hygiene products accessible to girls of reproductive age.
- Humanitarian organizations and stakeholders to sponsor the distribution of subsidized menstrual pads for women below the poverty line and girls in vulnerable communities.
- Public authorities to enforce the quality standard of menstrual hygiene products like sanitary pads, as several substandard menstrual products in the Nigerian market compromise menstrual hygiene health. We urge professional, trade and labor unions to take this as an advocacy action.
Generally, households and public water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities should allow women and girls to safely, comfortably, and privately manage menstruation – and must be accessible to girls and women with disabilities.
As we start the new dispensation of government, we are optimistic that the government will prioritize and give adequate attention.
Thank you for reading.