A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Heal for Africa Initiative, trained and empowered over 300 schoolgirls in Kogi on safe and healthy menstrual hygiene, gave them free sanitary pads and personal hygiene products.
The NGO also urged government and other stakeholders to provide WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities in public schools across the country as part of activities to mark 2018 Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD), celebrated annually on May 28.
Dr. Kelechi Okoro, the Founder of the NGO, told newsmen at Al-Ansar Secondary School in Lokoja on Wednesday, that the program is the official launch of Pay Attention To Her (PATH) project, aimed at promoting good menstrual hygiene and educating the public that menstruation is everybody’s business, and not just for female alone.
“We are here to educate and empower over 300 schoolgirls on good menstrual hygiene and give them free sanitary pads and hygiene products. We will also train the girls on how to make reusable pads from local materials, and teach them how to dispose the used pads.
“We need to let our girls know that whatever sanitary method they use while menstruating, must be hygienic, and that they should not feel ashamed during their Period,” Okoro said.
She said that the WASH facilities in schools would enable girl child to stay comfortably well in school during their menstrual period, saying “a girl must not miss school because of her menstrual period.’’
She also recommended that the Ministry of Agriculture to look into production of reusable biodegradable eco sanitary pads made from agricultural materials, saying it would be more hygienic, safer and affordable than the disposable ones.
“This sensitization and training is going to be a continuous program that will cover all schools in Kogi, Nigeria and Africa. We are positive that the PATH project is going to be a huge success.
“Period is a thing of pride, you don’t have to be ashamed of it, it is everybody’s business. We need everybody to show support for it, because it is important to health and nation building.
“We are talking about empowering a girl child through personal hygiene; it is not just about health but also about social development.
“We thank our partners from across Nigeria and beyond who had donated passionately through internet to support this initiative; we call for more support to reach out to more girl child.
The medical doctor, however advised Nigerians to shun archaic and religious beliefs that made women to feel they were unclean and unworthy when menstruating.
“Menstruation should not be something hidden or to be ashamed of, instead, the girls should be empowered with enough information and means to make their menstrual periods more hygienic and comfortable for them,” Okoro said.
In her remarks, Dr. Folashade Ayoade, the Secretary to Kogi State Government (SSG), advised the schoolgirls to take care, take charge and practice all they have been taught during the training and study hard.
“I feel so excited and proud of the initiator of this program because it is something that is worthy of teaching that our children need to know about,” she said.
Dr Ahmed Attah, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Health Matters, urged the girls to take the rare opportunity and utilize them, urging them to be courageous and hardworking in order to be successful in the society.
“The idea of giving this information on hygienic component of menstruation is laudable, and I think it is a thing they should hold on to and work with throughout their life and career,” Attah said.
One of the girls, Aishat Mohammed, said she was delighted about the empowerment program for the girl child, saying it has really broadened her knowledge about menstrual hygiene.
The items distributed includes: Stationary, soaps and detergents, antiseptics, deodorants, tissue paper, sanitary pads, sucks, provisions, drinks, among others.