Towards Eradicating Period (Menstrual) Poverty: Need for Policy Making

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Convener: Udoka Anita Ikebuwa

Udoka Anita Ikebuwa, founder of Pad a Girl Foundation, made a strong case for the girl-child menstrual health as she convened a programme tagged; “Disrupting Period Poverty in Rural Communities across Delta State.”

The programme which was held today 21st September 2023 at Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba, brought together some of the finest professionals and facilitators on girl-child health education before an audience comprising students carefully selected from some secondary schools in Asaba, moderated by Mrs. Ese Obote-Ogwu with Her Excellency, Dcn. Tobore Oborevwori as the Special Guest of Honour.

Speaking at the opening of the event, the convener of the programme, Udoka Anita Ikebuwa highlighted the background of Project Pad a Girl which is against the backdrop of the inability of most girl-child in rural communities to access sanitary pads to take care of their menstrual period. Speaking further, the convener affirmed that the project aims at driving a government policy that would bring to an end period poverty and eliminate some risk-factors associated with menstrual health of the girl-child.

“Pad a Girl Foundation seeks to engage critical stakeholders in Delta State Government towards driving government policies that would make free sanitary provisions for the girl-child in schools”; Udoka remarked, while thanking participants and attendees present, especially her mother for giving her all the needed support to launch this project.

Doing justice to the topic under discuss, the founder of Heroes for Her Foundation, Ifeoma Lynda Omenugha demystified what menstrual poverty is all about. Common amongst girl-child between the ages of 10-19years, Mrs. Omenugha noted that menstrual poverty is the inability of the girl-child to afford sanitary pads leading to sexual and reproductive health problem. Giving credence to the above, Dr. Mildred Okowa-Igumbor, a public health physician, in a later presentation, described period poverty as the inability to afford sanitary period products like pads and resort to the use of rags or tissue paper.

Mrs. Omenugha identified that menstrual poverty has socio-cultural root causes, and in the words of Dr. Okowa-Igumbor, it is a public health crisis because some girl-child may not be able to access these sanitary products.

Speaking further on the effects of menstrual poverty, Dr. Okowa-Igumbor quoted that 1 in every 5 girls misses school because of period shame and inability to handle menstruation during school hours, and over 5million girls worldwide do not have access to suitable sanitary help.

The fact that Delta State is among the leading Nigerian States in girl-child education is noteworthy. Delta, Edo and Ondo States were reported to have less out-of-school girls compared to other state of the federation. Mrs. Omenugha recommended that menstrual health education should be taught in schools and discussed amongst students as topical issue. Recommending policy measures, Mrs. Omenugha listed product availability, subsidizing products, accountability of the Project by class teachers and other stakeholders, as means of mitigating the crisis of period poverty. She further noted that Rwanda and South Africa have adopted and implemented these policies towards menstrual poverty eradication. She advised that women should be involved in the policy making and hope Delta State would be the first to pass the Menstrual Poverty Bill.

The interactive session was moderated by Miss Maureen Chinonye Achugbue together with distinguished discussants comprising the present Director of New Media, Ministry of Information, Mrs. Stella Macaulay, and Hon. Commissioner for Girl-Child and Humanitarian Affairs, ably represented by Mrs. Ochuko Oronse. The discussion borders on the role of government and parents towards eradicating period poverty, lack of proper education about period poverty, steps to be taken by the government to make the girl-child access sanitary products and feedback mechanism of programme implementation. Social media platforms like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram, as well as primetimes before and after regular news, were identified as frequently used media of communication to promote the policy. The discussants urged the founder and convener of the project to intensify effort to ensuring the government makes the policy a reality.

Nonetheless, the discussants underscored the need of the boy-child to be sensitized in order to avoid stigmatization of the girl-child during menstrual period. All hands – the girl-child, the boy-child, the parent and government have to be on deck to address the issue. The discussants however recommended a communique of the programme to be signed by stakeholders present which will give the project a voice to the government for policy consideration.

Talking about the role of Ministry of Girl-Child and Humanitarian Affairs to tackling menstrual poverty, the Hon. Commissioner, Mrs. Uduaghan speaking in the voice of her presentative, Mrs. Oronse assured that a feedback of this programme would be sent to the Ministry for policy consideration in 2024 budget. Noting that the International Day for the Girl-Child is 18th October every year, Mrs. Oronse revealed that the Ministry is planning a programme for the girl-child on that day, targeting secondary school students.

The Director, New Media, Ministry of Information, Mrs. Stella Macaulay suggested that the convener should engage more stakeholder such as Ministry of Education Ministry of Women Affairs and Ministry of Health amongst others. “It has to be all hands on deck before we can say uhuru”; Mrs. Macaulay submitted.

Lending her voice to micro-measures towards eradicating period poverty, the moderator of the event, Mrs. Ese Obote-Ogwu, recommended that a one-on-one measure would also work by helping a girl-child close to you in need of sanitary or menstrual help.

The event also showcased dance, presentations and spoken words from representations of schools and Gender Based Violence (GBV) organization led by Ada Africa Udegboka. Also present at the event are; Bar. Mrs. Isioma Okonkwo of St. Philip Catholic Church, Hon. Barr. Bridget Anyafulue represented by Mr. Clement, and a keynote speaker, Mrs. Olivia Onyemaobi who spoke extensively on reusable sanitary pads as a fundamental solution to ending period poverty, citing the successes her organization has recorded across Africa in terms of engagements and distribution of reusable sanitary pads.

The event was rounded up by a communique draft on the various issues raised, discussed and addressed in the course of the programme.

Wilbet Ijeoma

Reporting…..