No girl or woman should be left behind because of her period. In Malumfashi, a community in Katsina state of northern Nigeria, Rebecca Lazarus, dressed in her white school uniform and hijab, stands in front of her peers during the School Assembly. She is excited to share her knowledge about menstrual hygiene with the whole school. She believes that the school attendance and retention rates among girls in her school should not be affected because of their menstrual cycle.
Rebecca is one of the beneficiaries of the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) training conducted by UNICEF in 2017. Students and women in Malumfashi Local Government Area (LGA) of Katsina State were trained on healthy practices of menstrual hygiene management.
Rebecca Lazarus, a senior student at the Government Day Secondary School Dayi Malumfashi, addressing students on the importance of menstrual hygiene during the School Assembly
The MHM training, which was aimed at eliminating the barriers encountered by the girls and women due to poor menstrual hygiene, included a hands-on skill acquisition programme. The women and girls in Malumfashi were trained to produce reusable sanitary pads, thereby opening them to social and economic opportunities.
The reusable sanitary pads are packaged as a kit. This kit is made up of 2 shields, 6 flannels, and 1 bag. It currently sells between N350 and N500. This is cheap compared to a disposable sanitary pad that costs between N550 and N800. At least 25 women in communities and 500 students – girls – in 5 schools (100 per school) were trained to produce these kits. They now share their knowledge and skills with others interested in learning.
Rebecca Lazarus, and members of the MHM club producing a reusable sanitary pad as part of their extra-curriculum activities.
The hygienic management of menstruation and production of reusable sanitary pads training has also created business opportunities for the girls and women in the community. Available record spanning January 2018 to April 2018 shows the sale of 1833 shield, 4,051 flannels, and 812 bags by those who embraced the entrepreneurial opportunity. In schools, 441 kits have been sold over the same period. Women from other communities buy the kits in quantities at the cost of about NGN400 and resell them in their villages at a profit. No report of any negative effect of using the kits has been reported. However, the women have shared concerns over the growing competition between themselves and new entrants in the reusable pad production business. Customers are being lured towards the competitors because they produce the reusable pads with a different material. In order to continue to hold a profitable share of the market, they hope to upgrade the quality of materials used for kit.
Rebecca, who is now a senior student at the Government Day Secondary School Dayi Malumfashi, also engages in an informal peer mentorship programme to share her skill in reusable pad production and knowledge of the menstrual hygiene management with other students. Her role as the health prefect of the school gives her the leverage of initiating a menstrual hygiene club in her school.
MHM club provides a platform for members to share challenges faced by girls around menstrual health and puberty.
Boys are not left behind.
In five of the junior secondary schools where students have been trained, boys were sensitized on the importance of supporting girls instead of teasing during their menstrual periods.
The school principal, the club matron, and the school Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of the Government Day Secondary School Dayi Malumfashi have indicated their interest to support the establishment of MHM clubs in the school. This will include the development of a curriculum to guide the activities of the school.
The activities would include a weekly girls-talk, where club members (girls only) can discuss issues relating to menstrual health and puberty. The goal is to continue to build the confidence of the girls in the school to prevent them from skipping classes when on their period. And also encourage them to participate in extra-curricular activities of learning and playing.
Girls no longer skip classes when on their period. They are able to freely learn and play.
With the accessibility of reusable sanitary pads and increased awareness about menstrual hygiene, women and girls can take action and contribute to their communities, whether or not they are on their period.
Below is a video captured to show the impact of the MHM training on the community: