I was almost 12, already concluding JSS 2 to begin JSS 3 the next September. I remember vividly, it was the send forth party day for outgoing senior students after all our exam that year, so we were not expected in school until 12 noon. I had taken the whole morning to do small house chores amidst experiencing slight stomach pain. To me it was a normal day until it was time to take my bath. I noticed I had some blood stains. I looked at the stains inquisitively, I didn’t know what it was. How come? So many questions, however I prepared and went for the event. I didn’t enjoy the event at all because i kept thinking about the blood stains. I got some relief later that evening when i noticed more stains. Oh no, it’s that thing they call period, I said to myself. Hmmmm, this is serious oh.
How do I tell my mum (Mummy is a very welcoming woman, she has patience to listen to anything but this one is a big one for me). How will I handle this? Oh yeah, I remembered my very close friend then in JSS 1, she usually asked me to escort her to change herself. I could recall how she usually folds the tissue paper. So I quickly collected the tissue we had at home and did the same thing. I was really uncomfortable, yet to talk to my mum about it. Thank God my cousin Aunty Queen was there, so the next day I told her about it. She quickly educated me the much she knew, yea she was much older than me. When she had finished the lecture, she encouraged me to go tell my mum of which I did. Kai, I remember mum smiled and quickly gave me her own lecture too and sent me to buy Star tissue for myself. I think that tissue paper was the best at that time. This was the beginning of a lifelong episode for me and i know for sure alot of ladies have their own story(you can share with me if you want your own published).
Months went by and I continued to use the tissue, soon I started experiencing itching monthly. I was reacting to the tissue i came to understand later. Each time my period came, is like one bad thing is happening. I felt uncomfortable with it. But I didn’t know any alternative then except the sanitary pad I assumed was expensive. Kai, assumption is too bad. Thanks to Aunty Queen, one of the months, she gave me a few pieces of her own sanitary pad. Wow, that few days I felt fresh. The next month after that, I demanded for money for pad from mum, it’s a no more tissue for me. Oh, I can’t even remember how many times I got stained while I was using the tissue and how many times I had to leave the class to go change up. Tissue was sometime else, I can’t even express all my dissatisfaction using it then(One of the reason for Menstrual Hygiene Day).
Joining the public health field, I was part of the group of youth volunteers engaged as reproductive health peer educators by Youth Profile and later NYSC/Society for Family Health Peer Education Project. I heard a lot from girls and saw too many things. I kept telling myself that one day I will pioneer projects on menstrual hygiene. This was not visible until 2017, I wrote an article on Menstrual Hygiene Day. Wow, a lot of people liked and commented on that. I made myself a promise to begin to champion something for the girls. They need care, they need knowledge, menstrual hygiene management is lacking and they need to understand they have a voice. I know for sure that public health awareness is better with consumables. During 2018 Menstrual Hygiene Day, 85 girls/ladies in Iriebe Town, a community in Rivers State, Nigeria received on the spot sensitization, one pack of pad and Hypo. This was supported by social media friends and relations who only saw my appeal message between two to five days before the event.
That support triggered me to engage my social media platform as a means of communication. This method worked again this year. Few social media friends(some I have never meet before in real life), my classmates, relations and a colleague responded promptly. With these contributions, 170 packs of sanitary pad where distributed evenly to girls at Girls’ Secondary School, Ojoto Community, Anambra state, Nigeria after a short lecture on menstrual hygiene management.
I really appreciate everyone for making this event a reality. Trust me, you can achieve a lot with the right support system. You can read my article on why you should build a personal support system here.
ABOUT MENSTRUAL HYGIENE DAY
Menstrual Hygiene Day first celebrated on 28th May, 2014 was initiated by a German-based NGO WASH United to create a world in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically with confidence and without shame, where no woman or girl is limited by something as natural and normal as her period.
The date was selected to acknowledge that the average length of the menstrual cycle is 28 days. Every year, a theme is selected to mark the day. For 2019, the theme is It’s Time for Action.
Menstrual hygiene management can be particularly challenging for girls and women in developing countries who have no proper access to information or facilities. Furthermore, traditional cultures make the topic a taboo, not to be discussed, making it further difficult for them to address the issue. Poor menstrual hygiene is caused by lack of education on the issue, persisting taboos and stigma, limited access to hygienic menstrual products and poor sanitation infrastructure.