By our special correspondent
A public health expert who is in a position to know says 44% of Nigerian women and teenage girls struggle to raise just N500 to purchase sanitary pads once a month during their menstrual periods. According to Nkeiru Ezeama, about 44 per cent of women and girls in Nigeria are experiencing period poverty as they cannot afford N500 sanitary pads. They suffer from menstrual poverty. Ms Ezeama disclosed this at a symposium for schoolgirls, organised by Zobam Charity Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, to mark Menstrual Hygiene Day in Awka.
Menstrual Hygiene Day is marked every May 28 to highlight the importance of menstrual hygiene and to raise awareness of issues faced by women and girls who do not have access to sanitary products. She said menstrual poverty made many women and girls resort to unhygienic materials to absorb menstrual blood, which could cause reproductive infections and urinary infections, among other problems.
The public health expert described menstruation as the monthly expulsion of blood and cellular fragments from the uterus that starts at puberty. According to her, menstruation is a normal biological process and part of a woman’s life, not something to be ashamed of or stigmatized.
“It is sad that many women and girls have their confidence eroded for the mere fact that they menstruate. They feel ashamed when they are in their periods which most times cause mental stress and can lead to anxiety and depression,” explained Ms Ezeama.
Approximately 1.2 billion women and girls across the world do not have sufficient access to menstrual hygiene products due to poverty. The physician added: “Several are deprived of facilities where they can treat menstrual pain, change their pads and access to dispose of pads in good facilities. According to statistics, one in 10 girls in Africa miss school because of their periods, and about 44 per cent of women and girls in Nigeria are experiencing period poverty as they cannot afford N500 sanitary pads.
Ms Ezeama also mentioned that poverty, gender inequality, cultural abuse, and lack of access to basic services contributed to unmet menstrual hygiene needs. The health expert urged manufacturers of menstrual hygiene products to consider biodegradable, friendly, hygienic and cheaper products that could be easily absorbed in the soil to address menstrual poverty in the country.
Stella Okunna, the deputy vice-chancellor of Paul’s University, Awka, noted that in rural areas, many women grew up believing that menstruation is a taboo or something unclean and to date they still feel embarrassed when in their periods. Okunna said menstruation shows you are developing appropriately as a young woman and you should be happy because you are on the right path to adulthood.