Plan International, a Non-Governmental Organisation, has called for the provision of free sanitary pad for adolescent girls for better menstrual management.

Mr Charles Usie, the Country Director, Plan International in Nigeria, made the call at a stakeholders dialogue in Abuja on Tuesday, adding that menstrual health should be a national issue to be addressed by policy makers.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the dialogue is with support from Kimberly-Clark to commemorate the 2022 Menstrual Hygiene Day with the theme: “Menstruation Matters: My Period, My Pride.”

Usie said the totality of a girl’s life would remain incomplete without adequate menstrual health.

He added that “menstruation is neither an illness nor a problem to be ashamed about”, and called for open conversation on the subject to eradicate stigma which he described as unnecessary.

He said “at some point in our history, this was how we advocated to eradicate HIV/AIDS. One of the things we did was to advocate for free condoms.

“Menstrual health is an issue; let us also raise our voices so that it will get to a point where sanitary pads wil become free for young girls.

“You cannot look at the totality of the life of a girl-child and not talk about menstrual health and that is why at this time of the year, we stand with all the girls in Nigeria and across the world to say menstrual health is not just a girl or a woman issue but all of us.”

Usie said that the organisation had identified with menstrual health to raise voices for Nigerian girls and to say that menstruation was not a sickness and girls should not be ashamed to talk about it

He added that the organisation was currently running a project in Bauchi State to empower girls and women with adequate information about health hygiene.

“Plan International Nigeria, which is currently running a project on menstrual health in Bauchi State funded by Kimberly-Clark, had over the years, provided over 9,000 dignity kits to girls, empowering them with information on menstrual hygiene management.

“We have also increased knowledge on periods to over 6,000 girls, with a pool of community members who are better informed about periods, and galvanised women in WASH in some of our intervention states.

“We have taken the sensitisation of in-schoolgirls on their periods with support from the education authorities.

“The organisation also built 155 gender-segregated toilets in schools, which provided an enabling environment for WASH in schools with regards to menstrual hygiene management,” he said.

He added that the organisation was targeting 10 million girls.

Mrs Fatimah Aliyu, the Founder, Farm for Future, an Environmental Advocacy Platform, said that a large population of Nigeria are women, hence the need to focus attention on them, especially with regards to health hygiene.

According to her, there is so much stigma and shame around menstrual health which calls for the introduction of hygiene into the school curriculum.

She, therefore, called for partnership between Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and traditional institutions to provide facilities to this group of people in the communities.

Mr Peter Ojonogba, the Head, School Health Programme, Federal Ministry of Education, said the ministry had been part of the programme to ensure menstrual hygiene in schools.

Ojonogba said that for any intervention to succeed, stakeholders must use the community and the school-based approach to get to the group in need of facilities.

He said “education plays key role in disease eradication and we need to start from the school to give children the right information about menstrual hygiene.

“Efforts are underway through collaboration, budget line for WASH in schools. Also, the teachers teaching this subject must be updated through capacity building so they will be kept abreast with the latest innovations around WASH.”

The event, which was attended by adolescent girls, relevant government officials, development partners and CSOs, featured panel discussions, experience sharing from the Bauchi online participants and policy engagement. (NAN)

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