Menstrual Hygiene: Implications For Nigeria | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Menstrual Hygiene: Implications For Nigeria

Posted: May 29, 2015 at 4:31 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

BY Sandra Eguagie

Menstruation is a natural, biological and beneficial process in the life of adolescent girls and women of reproductive age. Globally, approximately 52% of the female population (26% of the total population) is of reproductive age. Most of these women and girls will menstruate each month for between two and seven days, and approximately 450-500 times in a life time. Even though this problem is common in developing countries, Nigerian women and girls are at risk of reproductive tract infections during natural events in their life such as menstruation among others. A rural woman’s capacity to manage her periods is affected by a number of other factors, including limited access and affordability of hygienic sanitary materials.

In Nigeria, especially in rural areas the existing culture of ‘silence’ and shame on issues relating to sexuality and menstruation is gradually reducing but the issue of menstrual hygiene remains a big concern. Some women and young girls in rural and urban areas in Nigeria still the use of old torn cloth and wrapper either used or unused, may be clean or dirty as menstrual absorbent as there is no cost involved. Others who also engage in these unwholesome practices are the many low income earners and adolescent children of poor parents in rural areas in Nigeria. They use cloths and pieces of wrapper spread out indoors to dry, with another piece of dirty cloth to cover the menstrual cloth to dry basically because of the feeling of shame and embarrassment.

This method of drying these sanitary materials makes the materials moist.  Therefore, when the piece of cloth is stored among other clothes, it becomes easily susceptible to insects and bacteria. Repeated use causes rashes that lead to more serious health problems such as infections. Considering the low immunity level of the body at this period, it makes the body vulnerable and unsanitary practices can lead to different ailments.

Reproductive tract infection most relevant to menstrual hygiene management is bacterial vaginosis (BV) and vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC). These are primarily non-sexually transmitted and could possibly be introduced to the reproductive tract through the materials used for absorbing menstrual blood during menstrual period. BV has been associated with an increased risk of HIV infection.

In addition, poor menstrual hygiene can cause fungal infections, RTI and urinary tract infection which might lead to cervical cancer and also vulnerable to infertility. RTIS and their complications are among the most important causes of illness and death for women in the poor regions of the world. RTIs in many cases are asymptomatic among women, making their detection and diagnosis difficult.

Although, sanitary pads are not the only solution to the health problems of poor menstrual hygiene there are other issues like reproductive health education, water supply, proper disposal etcetera.  But this discussion has become important because good menstrual hygiene management is effective when well practiced. And when Girls and women are taught good menstrual hygiene practice and are still not able to afford sanitary materials, then the problem persists.

As we celebrate May 28, 2015 as Menstrual Hygiene Day, we crave the indulgence of international donors, NGOs, companies and others to promote the  course of continuous provision of free sanitary pads to rural women and girls. It is one way of reducing the rate of reproductive tract infections that can lead to other severe health challenges affecting women. The distribution of these free sanitary materials will also create an avenue for us all to propagate good menstrual hygiene practices to as many beneficiaries as possible thereby enhancing public health management.

At the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), we believe that promoting a world wherein every woman and adolescent girls can manage their menstruation in a hygienic way is of great health benefit to all. Reproductive tract infections have become a silent killer and they have devastated many a woman’s life.  We contend that promoting good menstrual hygiene habits will go a long way in increasing the life expectancy ratio of women in developing countries. We also believe that paying attention to the health of women will reduce loss of manpower and the pressure on the health sector especially when the health sector has not been able to fully cater for the health needs of the people in this part of the world. We suggest that proactive measures are the best methods of fighting some of the likely causes of severe health challenges in the developing countries where resources are mismanaged, and where there’s a high level of corruption and where there is endemic poverty.

Most women who have suffered from RTIs, and other related infections caused by poor menstrual hygiene start experiencing these problems after they have started using good sanitary materials. This is because the reproductive system would have become weakened due to poor menstrual hygiene habits when they had no money to buy sanitary materials, and when they were ignorant of better methods of taking care of their menstrual health.

So, let’s help join hands together to reduce the burden of the poor in the society by maintaining and building up the reproductive system of these adolescent girls and women in the rural areas and urban centres by helping to ensure good menstrual hygiene habits.

Therefore, this is a clarion call to government, female legislators, ministers, companies, celebrities, philanthropists in the society.  It is also a call to international donors for the provision of free sanitary pads to adolescent girls and women in rural areas and government girls’ schools in urban areas. We call on other agencies that have been involved in sponsoring the distribution of free condoms, mosquito nets to the ordinary citizens of Nigeria to continue to do so.  These agencies have been able to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS infection and the rate of malaria infection.  Menstruation is natural process of life that has been neglected and as a result it has caused serious health challenges to women and girls of reproductive age owing to inadequate menstrual hygiene habits and inability of rural women and girls to afford sanitary materials.

• Eguagie, is Programme Officer with the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ).