Pad up a Girl Child Initiative – a not-for-profit project undertaken by Chiamaka Enyia, a 24-year-old corps member serving in Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State has helped to provide sanitary pads for about 400 indigent girls in the Ohaji-Egbema community.
Findings by PUNCH HealthWise revealed that the initiative started by the corps member in 2019 has not only helped in the provision of free sanitary pads to many indigent girls from poor backgrounds but has helped in the education of young girls on menstrual hygiene.
Speaking with our correspondent, the corps member said her passion for educating and helping young girls from poor backgrounds about hygiene motivated her to start the Pad up a Girl Child Initiative when she was posted to the village.
Enyia who spoke with our correspondent in a telephone interview in commemoration of the 2022 World Menstrual Hygiene Day said she found out on getting to the village that many young indigent girls are unable to maintain good menstrual hygiene due to poverty, noting that the challenge is not limited to Imo State, but cuts across many other states in the country.
She disclosed that one of the girls assisted by Pad up a Girl Child Initiative – a 13-year-old girl, was using newspapers as a pad when menstruating.
“I know that as an undergraduate I didn’t always have access to a pad but her own story really shocked me.
“When we met her, she said she used to use newspapers so we gave her one carton of sanitary pads,” she said.
She disclosed that many girls in the community became dependent on her initiative for sanitary pads.
Enyia says while she is unhappy that she will not always be there to help girls in the community with sanitary pads because she was only in the vicinity for her compulsory one-year National service, she is happy that she was able to educate the girls on how to maintain ensure good menstrual health even if they are improvising with clothes.
“In our outreach, we educate them on how to use clothes in case we don’t return the next month, we educate them how to safely use old clothes to avoid infections.
“What we tell them is that If you use cloth as a pad, wash and sun dry it. Don’t hang it in your room. If the cloth is sun-dried, you will be able to kill the germs. That is how you can maintain some level of hygiene.
“This is because we know that no matter how we try, not every young lady can afford a sanitary pad.
“But if they are using a reusable cloth and they wash it properly and sundry it, it would help improve their menstrual hygiene,” she said.
Enyia also stated that schools are not doing well with menstrual health education.
“My experience in the different schools I have visited has shown me that the teachers do not educate the young girls on menstrual hygiene. They have to do better.
“I know that not every girl can afford a pad. But, even if they are using old clothes, they should be educated on how to maintain the clothes? That is one of the issues.”
Speaking with our correspondent on how schools can help improve menstrual health education, Mrs. Kemisola Oyeniyi, a teacher at Obele Community School, Surulere, Lagos, schools can indeed play a good role in educating young girls about menstrual hygiene.
She, however, noted that poverty is the root cause of poor menstrual health for many young girls.
“Lack of money is a big deal because some of these students come to school without eating.
“So, for a child that has not eaten, how would such a child think of using money to buy a pad for menstruation. So, it is a big deal,” Mrs. Oyeniyi said
She adds, “We even buy and keep pads at the beginning of the term because we know that some of our students will need pads.
“This is because we know that not all the students can afford it and some might get stained while in school. Once they are stained like that, they won’t leave their seat no matter what.
“It’s on us to do the little we can. We use our own money to help them. I bought a cartoon this term but it is almost finished and some of them already know where it is so when they see their period, they know exactly what to do even when I’m not around.”
According to a 2021 study published in the medical journal, BMC Women’s Health, about 500 million women in the world lack access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities.
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