WHY CAN’T WE TALK FREELY ABOUT PERIODS
I remember when I was 11 years old, my mum suddenly announced loudly that my sister got her Period in the presence of my dad. My sister was drowned in embarrassment and I was embarrassed on her behalf too because Period
was that which should not be named loudly. At that young age, I knew it was shameful to talk openly about it but didn’t know why. My dad made a joke about it and happily asked that we celebrate it with the dressing of a very big chicken because my sister had become a woman.
I shared this experience with my friends in school and none of them could relate to it. There was no celebration in their homes to acknowledge the beginning of a journey to womanhood. Rather, many of my peers registered that their parents/guardians were not aware and barely made adequate provisions for the products needed. They often had to save from their meagre feeding allowance to cater to their monthly needs.
For many young girls especially in Nigeria, menstruation is taboo and a nightmare because they are ill-prepared for transitioning to puberty. They have no access to safe, hygienic sanitary products (pad, tampon, menstrual education, clean water, good toilets, medication etc.) This is Period poverty and it affects millions of women all over the world in many ways that are often overlooked because of the taboos surrounding it.
Many girls and women use alternative absorbents like rags, tissue, old socks, books, clothes, napkin, etc. We don’t talk freely about Period, and we don’t talk about our struggles with Period because it is shameful. We don’t learn enough about our body functionality, because we are submerged in a lot of myth from a very young age, and this has got to stop!.
AIR IT OUT!
Menstruation should be considered as the 4th most basic need of life because it is inevitable for half of the world’s population. We can refuse to eat but we cannot refuse to bleed. The effect of Period poverty is huge and we need to talk more often about it and seek solutions that are practical, especially for low income-earning communities, women with disabilities, and incarcerated women. The indignity, shame and pain associated with menstruation in our communities can mentally de-stabilize girls and bring major setbacks to their progress in school or at work. Period poverty disempowers women by affecting productivity at work, at home, in schools, and it reduces the quality of their total wellbeing, especially for girls living with disabilities.
HOW BAD IS IT
According to the UN report, about 3 million women and teenage girls in Nigeria have to choose between getting Period products or food every month due to extreme poverty and a high tax on menstrual products. As of 2021, a girl needs an average of ₦800 (≃$2) every month for sanitary pads. Many girls especially in the rural communities have little or no access to standard sanitary products because they are too expensive.
They also do not have proper education about Period, besides the whispered advice from mothers or older relatives. We have a culture that believes it is shameful to talk about bodily functions, and this culture of silence greatly affects women, especially in areas of reproductive health and hygiene. Menstruation is believed to be a dirty act that should be hidden and not openly discussed. Girls are shamed in schools and around the community for having Period stain, pad bulge, and Period pain (dysmenorrhea) is ridiculed and assumed exaggerated, even for those who suffer from endometriosis - a severe case of dysmenorrhea.
WAY TO GO - #PROJECTREDDOT
As a community focused on actively improving the livelihood and productivity of women, Asha is dedicated to reduce Period poverty and destigmatize menstruation myth through targeted enlightenment programs, free product supply and financial empowerment for sustainability.
The Project RED DOT is a fundraising campaign and partnership towards the eradication of period poverty in marginalized communities in Nigeria. It will be a year-long project that aims to supply 1000 pads monthly to beneficiaries for 12 months. We will also train women on how to create their own reusable pads with hygienic materials that will eventually become an economic gateway for their immediate household.
As we continue to advocate for the Nigerian government to join other countries like Kenya and Scotland, to intervene in the suffocating burden of period products price, we have taken up this huge challenge. Will you join us to achieve this?