By Justina Auta
An NGO, Focusing on Women and Girls Initiative for Positive Change (FOWGI),
has urged Federal Government to remove all taxes on sanitary pad to make it accessible and affordable.
The Executive Director of the group, Mrs Rifkatu Ademola made the call during sensitisation on menstrual hygiene management and distribution of sanitary pad to 1,500 students of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Dutse in the FCT on Monday.
Ademola, also a menstrual hygiene educator and advocate of girls’ education, said that the gesture was to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4, and create a platform for the full expression of African female.
According to her, the goal is to ensure that by 2030, menstruation becomes a normal topic with no girl left behind.
She added that “it is good to see women seated in meetings where decisions that affect their lives are taken.
“We believe that menstruation is a normal phenomenon, totally natural. It is not anyone’s choice to say I decide to be a boy today, I decide to be a girl tomorrow.
“Why should anyone feel ashamed to identify with menstruation?. Let there be free sanitary pads in offices, schools, airports and everywhere. Let it be tax-free because it is not a luxury, it is not a choice. It is normal, natural, so we should embrace it.”
The FOWGI boss also quoted UNESCO report as saying “one in every 10 girls miss school due to menstruation, stigmatisation and inadequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities.
She added that some girls were forced to sit on sand to absorb the blood.
“We discovered that girls miss schools during their period every month and according to UNESCO, one out of 10 African girls misses out on school when it is their time of the month.
“We have come across girls who said they use sand so that it can absorb the blood and the fear of stigmatisation in schools, fear of getting stained makes them stay at home rather than go to school.
“It means 10 to 20 per cent of their learning process during academic activities is affected.
“We are advocating for girls to be educated; if they are missing out of school, how do we achieve that?’’ she asked.
Ademola further said that in the last five years, the NGO had distributed sanitary pad to over 59,200 students in Bauchi, Plateau and the FCT and urged government and private organisations to establish pad bank, where young underprivileged girls could access pad.
“We are hoping that various national organisations and governments would adopt this scheme to introduce a pad bank, let there be an officer to carter for the need of girls in schools.
“These pad banks should be located in strategic places like schools, airports, offices and other places where girls can immediately access it to use, particularly during emergency situation,” she said.
On her part, Fatima Mohammed, the Principal, GGSS Dutse, commended the organisation for the support.
Mohammed said the sensitisation on menstrual hygiene management would aid the students to know more about their cycle, build their confidence and appropriate way to ensure hygiene.
“The lesson is something that should be talked about every day because they need to be reminded of the need to adopt menstrual hygiene management, which should be part of our lives,’’ she said.
One of the beneficiary students, Miss Purity Godwin, said the sensitisation had further broadened her knowledge on menstrual cycle and hygiene management, as well as the appropriate way to dispose sanitary pad after use.
Godwin added that the students were taught not to be shy or stigmatise others on their period, rather, they should show support and teach them menstrual hygiene management.