The aforementioned statement was seen on Blessing Michael’s placard during a Girl Child Campaign on the proper usage of sanitary pad by primary and secondary school’s girls among whom are those at their puberty stage and those battling with ‘strange blood’ scaring their pants.
Most teenagers have for one reason or the other never talked to their mothers about their menarche (first period) but chose to seek counsel from their schoolmates who also are confused about the sanitation of their vaginas and the adequate use of sanitary pads.
One research shows that in most African countries including Nigeria, most girls who see their period for the first time use either piece of rag, wrapper or tissue paper especially those from poor background.
A lot of girls cried in fear at seeing their first flow while some thought they were innocently pregnant like ‘Mary’. A lot who do not understand their circles and the ovulation period, eventually had theirs come publicly which affected their confidence for a while.
I remember witnessing Chiamaka’s menarche in secondary school and in my cluelessness I impeccably touched her and said “see something like blood”; the next thing I saw was a rush of assemblies of girls around her with their hair-scarfs and handkerchiefs.
Now, if we still have such ignorance, why then are our teachers not educating them about such in school especially from primary 5 or 6 upwards since its expected at the age of 10 menstruation begins and most parents at home have failed in their duty as the first educators of a child. Why is this not part of school’s curriculum or extra class activity to educate the girl child on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) with vivid illustrations?
I remember in a biology class how shyly my teacher taught us on Sexual Reproductive System in SS3; I could perceive she thought she was corrupting us with such a scanty knowledge. Most girls get to use wrapper to suck the discharge and the novice just place it there not knowing the form or pattern thereby causing possible vaginal infection, irritation, amenorrhea, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) due to lack of proper Menstrual Hygiene Management and total ignorance.
Truism as it is, many girls who learnt how to use sanitary pads out of intuition, several mistakes, guess work, or curiosity, have now become guardian and counselors to their friends.
Meanwhile, the most knowledgeable ones are now regarded as seniors or school mothers to so many menstruation greenhorns. In 2019, UNICEF reported a girl in Malumfashi community of Katsina State in Nigeria, who was proudly educating her peers on Menstrual Hygiene Management as they could not penetrate the community widely but resulted to peer-peer mentorship.
As the need for sanitary pads rises by natural demand, the cost also have been reported to rise concurrently making it more difficult for a lot of girls to afford buying, and those who doesn’t have parental bonds or relationship tend to crush on guys for some money just to survive the rising cost of sanitary pads, yet not knowing the differences, whether short, long, heavy or light flow as peculiar to individuals.
UNFPA reported that studies from Kenya had shown that “school girls engage in transactional sex to pay for menstrual products, particularly for the younger, uneducated, economically dependent girls”.
Why then does this prevail? Research shows that there are presently more free condoms than free sanitary pads and there are more foundations distributing condoms than those sharing sanitary pads. Which then should be more paramount? Which should be considered most helpful to the millions of girls suffering and harming their urinary tract, vagina, menstrual cycles even their cervices due to ignorance, poverty, malnourished education, and lack of sensitization on their period which is commonly reported to have affected their education.
UNESCO reported that “Many girls drop out of school altogether once they begin menstruating, for others they miss 20 percent of their given school year”. Girls are forced to stay at home also during menstruation due to the annoying cramps, hormonal changes, Premenstrual Dysphonic Disorder (PMDD), or the fear that it could bleed out. And when this happens during a test or exam period, nobody cares to ask or understand.
The stay at home is owing to the lack of proper education and sensitization that regular exercise helps your body to generate more of your body painkiller ‘endorphins’. Vitamins B-6 or ginger, calcium and turmeric are considered to be relief agents which if without could continue to truncate girls‘ dream.
Education therefore is expedient for the use, experiences and the expected Premenstrual Syndromes (PMS) and how to manage it. Letting them know that it is a feminine blessing and should be appreciated and not feared nor cursed. In Kenya research shows one million girls in Kenya do not go to school because they lack access to sanitary pads.
In 2018, a passionate lady for the Girl Child Empowerment, Blessing Michael mobilized her CDs group batch 18b, stream 1 to carry out a commendable project of love by visiting government schools in Bomadi LGA in Delta. She gave out over 1000 sanitary pads to school girls for a period of 5months with the firm support and sponsorship from Fly Like A Cloud foundation, among other NGOs. Today so many girls still call in appreciation for such knowledge which has saved them from becoming prey to the savageries of men.
Currently, there is a need for more distribution of sanitary pads to girls in government schools.
These kinds of support by NGOs and the distributions of sanitary pads should be applauded. You can sponsor or partner with them to continue this life saving humanitarian work. NGOs such as:
Fly Like A Cloud Foundation
Rock Flower Foundation
Town Crier Initiative
Society for the Improvement of Rural People
Give a girl a free sanitary pad today by reaching out to any of the above NGOs who are still in the graciousness of extending to government school girls and rural women needing the help of sanitary pads and other essential menstrual products.
Remember “Every Months Half of the World Bleeds”.
“Sex is choice, menstruation isn’t. Give free pads instead of free condom”.
© E.I Emeka 2020