Menstrual Hygiene Matters. Keep the girl child healthy, keep the nation healthy, blossoming, and secure.
Overall Dynamics – Did you know that a country’s economic status correlates with a high prevalence of unsafe menstrual hygiene management?
Apart from the glaring socio-economic challenges, synonymous to developing countries which poses right before us, eliciting a jarring response from its citizenry at intervals, health concerns, ironically, which in the long run shapes the future is for the most percentage, ignored or at best, inadequately addressed.
“Menstruation, or period, is normal vaginal bleeding that occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle. Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the uterus, or womb, sheds its lining. The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus.” As defined by medlineplus.gov, menstruation, a natural process a worthy milestone that signifies coming of age clearing pathways for girls to embrace womanhood, meant to be a thing a pride has quietly frankly been fraught with so much stigma, shame, embarrassment, and disgust.
Deemed “unclean” and “dirty” and hushed, never to be talked about, that time of the month for girls and women has been met with negativity and so much anxiety.
While for developed countries, Menstrual Health Management (MHM) presents little or no threat, owing to adequate knowledge, stigma proof mentality and the wide availability of feminine hygiene products such as tampons, pads, menstrual cups, and pantiliners as well as adequate sanitary facilities within and outside the home, the reverse is, however, the case in most developing nations.
Fact check: “Globally, 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation services” as stated by UNICEF.
A quick scan globally and we find the menstrual product industry has received a major boost with innovation and reliability; promoting comfort, absorbency, and ridding the surrounding stigma through awareness campaigns, thereby skyrocketing sales and brand loyalty, developing countries, however, struggle to meet up.
Lots of factors such as societal influence, economic status, cultural beliefs contribute to proper hygiene management in rural areas. Although lack of adequate knowledge and ignorance
Constitute great hindrance, poverty overrules greatly in low and middle-income countries.
For example, in the Gorkha district, central Nepal, period is associated with a high level of period-shaming – discrimination and restriction. During menstruation, adolescent girls stay home – sleep outside, and aren’t allowed some activities. It is also reported that more than 20% of girls in Sierra Leone miss school during their periods as 30% in Afghanistan 30% do. While almost a quarter of Indian girls drop out of school when they start menstruating and even those who remain, miss on average five days a month. Economic constraints and stigmatization, leading to the inability to buy sanitary pads have made many females turn to transactional sex.
Ignorance, due to lack of or inadequate knowledge, resulting in an inability to pay attention to personal hygiene during menstruation can lead to health risks including urinary and reproductive tract infections, pregnancy complications, particularly prone in rural areas. Access to sanitary products, lack of method usage, unaffordability, and lack of choice products have made many rural girls and women resort to and rely on reusable cloth pads which they use over and again. Proper disposal of sanitary pads or other menstrual products has also been a challenge.
Not enough conversation has been held to mentally and physically prepare girls for the phase they get “pushed” into, which of course yields to poor menstrual health practices.
Myths need be dispelled, candid discussion held, sanitation education on proper menstruation practices needs be put priority. Adequate water and safer low-cost menstrual materials which could reduce urogenital diseases need to be provided as well.
When these things are put brought into the equation and put in the right framework, it all goes a long way to impact the community and world in general. The girl child becomes an empowered woman, the inequality gap is bridged, healthier children are birthed, leading to a more prosperous society.
This is the broad framework that spurs my latest initiative, I Princess (Dr.) ToyinKolade together with my team will be paying visits to schools, holding a face-to-face conversation with students, educating them on the importance of hygiene practices during menstruation. Not only will I be enlightening them, but I will also be tackling the challenge of inadequacy by handing out sanitary pads, thereby helping make their journey of health awareness and hygiene smoother.