By Dennis Agbo
THE United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, has solicited support from the government, organizations, parents and other stakeholders, to enable adolescent women and girls have safe and proud menstrual cycles, particularly during school periods.
The world body lamented that one of the difficulties faced by young girls, especially during school hours was their inability to access hygienic menstruation, bringing about some of the girls refusing to attend classes during their menstrual periods and from there drop out of schools.
The agency emphasized that provision of water, sanitation and other menstrual facilities would help the girls gain confidence in staying at schools during their periods and pleaded that traditional inhibitions of girls during menstruation be lifted.
Unicef Nigeria WASH Manager, Mamita Bora Thakkar made the plea in a statement to celebrate the 2020 Menstrual Hygiene Day, MHD, observed worldwide on every May 28.
Thakkar said that “Stigmatizing adolescent girls and women for something that is natural and normal, because of myths and false beliefs undermines a woman’s basic rights.”
The Unicef Chief stated that an appropriate MHM programme in schools would require a multi-pronged strategy, involving the commitment of several Ministries, stakeholders like Unicef, civil societies and others.
“A good Menstrual Hygiene Management, MHM, programme means that girls have appropriate information and knowledge on the scientific aspects of menstrual health and hygiene, so that they are empowered through this knowledge, become confident to address this. Alongside this, there is a compelling need to address the issue of lack of WASH infrastructure in schools, on priority.
“Government needs to allocate appropriate budget, ensure that all schools have adequate, functional toilets, water and hand washing facilities. Government needs to make sure that girls have access to sanitary products and their disposal. We also need to work closely with parents, elders, schools teachers, community leaders to make sure the taboos, myths and the barriers around MHM is understood in an appropriate manner, and to raise awareness on these. There is a need for appropriate policies and political support, at a national level, that prioritizes MHM,” Thakkar said.
Study indicates that only 16 percent schools in Nigeria have basic water and sanitation facilities and only seven percent of the schools have basic water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, putting enormous challenge to menstruating girls to manage their menstruation hygienically and with dignity.
The average ratio of toilets/latrine in the urban schools for girls was 1:214 and for boys 1:374 while it is 1:168 and 1:272 for girls and boys respectively in rural schools.
Most the girls that responded stated that they had no prior knowledge about menstruation before menarche. There was no information on menstrual hygiene in the school curriculum and the teachers, especially those in co-educational schools, were uncomfortable to teach MHM.
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