Provide adequate menstrual hygiene facilities in schools, girl child activists urge governments.

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By Tasi’u Hassan

As Nigeria continues to encourage girl-child education, there are concerns about the number of girls who miss classes during their monthly menstrual cycle.

This according to some girl child activists affects the academic progress of some girls thereby denying them access to education.

Many are of the view that girls don’t go to schools during their menstrual cycle due to many reasons including stigma, lack of access to functional and segregated toilets, limited information on menstrual hygiene management, as well as other menstrual hygiene facilities.

A former Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen stated in June 2021 that, in Nigeria, over 37 million women and girls of reproductive age, lack access to menstrual hygiene products due to a lack of funds.

This, according to her, could affect girl-child education in the country, as many schoolgirls spend days at home during their monthly periods, due to a lack of menstrual hygiene products.

Also, a report by the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO), says one in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle.

Given the percentage of girls that miss school when they are menstruating, some girl child activists have begun to call on governments and proprietors of private schools to put in place necessary measures that will ensure that no girl child misses classes during her menstrual period.

In an interview with Wikkitimes, an Adamawa-based educationist and girl child activist, Hajiya Fatima Usman Belel, says the academic performance of girls who stay away from school during their menstrual will definitely be affected. ” We all know that in schools with active learning conditions if you miss a day, you are going to miss a lot. Some girls do experience seven days of menstrual flow, some even more than seven days. So, when you miss seven days, every month when accumulated, is going to be a lot and a lot”.

Fatima, who is also the founder, FABEL Foundation for Women and Youths Development, advised the government and the proprietors of private schools to have adequate facilities that will cater for a menstruating girl.

She added “Things like good toilets, water running taps so that when a girl is menstruating and when it is time for her to change the sanitary pads she is using she can just go in and it is safe for her.

She called for the inclusion of sensitization awareness in the guidance counselling department especially for young girls that have just started experiencing their menstruation.

A mother and Registered Nurse in Bauchi, Saratu Saleh Saleh noted government has a great role to play in reducing the number of girls, who miss school as a result of menstruation.

She said governments should establish pad banks in schools and supply pads to the schools for distribution to girls whenever they are menstruating.

“The state governments should ensure equitable distribution of pads to every school within their states. People from the guidance and counselling department should take charge of the pads and distribute them to the girls whenever the need arises. When the girls understand that they have pads in schools, they will attend classes even during menstruation”, she said.

Saratu Saleh also urged Parents Teachers Association to understand the importance of donating pads to schools, while also calling on business tycoons and philanthropists to provide schools with menstrual hygiene facilities to ensure that no girl misses class because of menstruation.

Similarly, Zainab Muhammad Sabitu of Plan International suggested establishing pad banks in schools to support menstruating girls, just like Nurse Saratu,

She recalled how Plan International mapped out some schools in Bauchi, established pad banks and provided them the sanitary pad products for free.

Zainab who expressed concern over how the lack of menstrual hygiene facilities in schools is denying many girls access to education, wants government and proprietors of private schools to provide access to clean and safe sanitation facilities with adequate water supply.

“They should create a supportive and non-stigmatising environment and ensure open conversation between boys and girls in schools. You know, there’s this belief that whenever a girl is menstruating she is unclean – like nobody should associate himself/herself with her. Some girls don’t go to schools not because they lack sanitary products. They stay away from the school for fear of stigma. So, I believe, with proper awareness, the boys and others who stigmatise menstruating girls will understand that menstruation is a natural process for every girl”, she added.

Zainab Sabitu expresses confidence that with proper awareness and adequate menstrual hygiene facilities, a lot of girls would not miss classes again and that the issue of out-of-school children among girls could be addressed.

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