In commemoration of the 2023 Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD), the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), in partnership with Keffi Local Government Area (LGA), Nasarawa state, Wednesday, sensitised secondary school students in Keffi on end to shame and stigma on menstruation.
The AHF also instituted a sanitary pad bank, in collaboration with Keffi LGA, Keffi Primary Healthcare Agency and Keffi Ministry of Women Affairs, to ensure availability of sanitary pads for girls.
Speaking at the event, Medical Director AHF Nigeria, Dr Emma Nwabueze, said the Foundation was creating awareness, to end stigma around menstruation while ensuring young women and girls have access to menstrual pads.
Nwabueze said that the process of menstruation had caused many girls to stay out of school due to financial inability to purchase pads, misconception and myths around menstruation, hence the need to create awareness.
He affirmed that the sanitary pad bank by AHF, in collaboration with its partners, was to ensure continuous availability of pads in facilities for girls in school and out of school during emergency situations.
He said: “We used this opportunity to come to Keffi to educate the women, girl child, male child and everybody on issues surrounding menstrual stigma.
“Some of our girls miss school because they are on their menstrual period, some do not go to school because their parents do not have money to buy the products.
“Some of our girls cannot open up and tell their parents about what is happening to their body, that is why we are here to advocate and tell people that menstruation is clean not dirty.”
Also speaking, the Chairman of Keffi LGA, Mr Muhammed Baba-Shehu, who was represented by the Secretary of the LGA, Mr Muhammed Adamu, commended AHF for choosing the LGA as one of its beneficiaries for the program.
Baba-Shehu further urged parents, teachers and guidance to support their children to end shame and discrimination when menstruating and ensure they maintain good hygiene.
He said: “It is a thing of joy to see that we are direct beneficiaries of this program. AHF have done marvellously well in such a silent area that affects our women and girls.
“However, on the side of the local government, we intend to collaborate with the Foundation and we are giving the assurance that we will do our best to contribute to the pad bank. We will also see how we can train our people to produce the sanitary pads to benefit our women and girls.”
On her part, the Supervisory Councillor, Women Affairs, Keffi LGA, Mrs Aisha Basha, said the Ministry was saddled with the responsibility of educating young women and girls on menstrual health and management.
Basha said the sensitisation was aimed at breaking the silence on stigma and shame as it affects menstruation, revealing that the Ministry educates the children to have confidence and maintain personal hygiene during menstruation such as bathing regularly, changing their pads and disposing off properly.
“This is important because we realise that most of our children are shy especially when they are growing into the reproductive stage.
“They do not want to discuss any issue concerning menstruation or any changes in their body to their parents, as they prefer to hide and deal with the situation themselves,” she said.
A participant and student of ECWA Government Junior Secondary School Keffi, Miss Gift Ibe, expressed her appreciation to the organisations for the enlightenment programme.
“I learnt that when am seeing my period, I should keep my body clean, take my bath and change my pad regularly. I also learnt not to be ashamed when am menstruating and to speak to my parents or teachers in school when i experience any problem or when an in pain,” she said.
Several schools were represented at the event, including Government Secondary School Keffi, St Peters Government Secondary School, St Williams Government Secondary School, among others.
Highlights of the event included the distribution of free menstrual pads to students and display of cultural dance among other activities.
The Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) is celebrated annually on May 28, with 2023 global theme: `End The Stigma on Periods’.
The annual MH Day, is to highlight the importance of menstrual care, and raise awareness about issues faced by women and girls who do not have access to clean water and sanitary products.