• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Why we are emphasizing a ‘period-friendly world’ for girls, women – WASH Specialist

Why we are emphasizing a ‘period-friendly world’ for girls, women – WASH Specialist

In this Interview with Regis Anukwuoji, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Enugu Field Office, WASH Specialist, Rebecca Bolatito Gabriel speaks on why UNICEF is advocating for Menstrual Hygiene among many other issues, such as observing May 28 every year as world menstrual Hygiene Day. Excerpts:

May we know why UNICEF is interested in menstrual hygiene?

This week Tuesday, we’ll be celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day with the theme for the year 2024 as ‘Together for a period-friendly world.’ UNICEF is advocating for access to menstrual products, safe, hygiene spaces in which to use them, and the right way to manage menstruation without shame or stigma, is essential for everyone who menstruates.

In a period-friendly world, the stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation are history; it is a world where everyone can access the products, period education and period-friendly infrastructure they need.

What is your vision of a period-friendly world, and why were May 5 and 28 dates chosen?

First of all, I would like to let us know that a period, makes us understand menstrual life cycle of a woman, of a female, whether a girl or a woman, as the case may be; a period, a menstrual cycle for a female is 28 days. And the period actually flows, that is the blood flow happens on the average of five days and that’s also related to the reason why this day is being celebrated on May 28. So, May 28, is for the 28th days menstrual cycle. And that fifth, the five days goes for the May. May is the fifth month of the year. So, I’m seeing a world where every girl, every woman is able to meet her needs as a person. The fact is that for every person, everybody has a right to how he or she can treat his or her body. So, for a girl child, it’s important also that, that person also has that power to be able to meet her needs.

These needs when talking about menstrual hygiene is very, very important because it goes a long way in actually helping the confidence of that individual. Most especially for a girl child, for adolescent girls because they go to school and if, for instance, a girl child is unable to meet these needs in terms of her being able to afford sanitary pads, sanitary towels, things that she can use, soap that she can use for her to maintain cleanliness and hygiene during this period, if these things are not available, we’ve had all over the world, we’ve seen it continuously where young girls are unable to go to school whenever they are experiencing their period because of it, we call it period poverty, where people cannot afford these basic things.

So, we see a future where a girl child is able to meet her needs in terms of a period without having to go through certain things that are not good for her as a human being and also as a girl.

Beyond advocacy, does your organisation make provision of such items to girls’ schools and rural communities?

Definitely, yes. UNICEF does a lot of things in that regard in provision of dignity kits, where we have sanitary pad, reusable ones, and also disposable ones. Reusable ones are actually very sustainable in the sense that it also helps to promote a good environment in terms of considering climate change and issues. So, disposable sanitary pads are always given out in different communities, even in IDP camps where we work, for instance, even in Benue and Cross River. So, these are things that are done. And in terms of being able to meet the needs of the girl child again in schools, for our education colleagues, we also go to schools and ensure that they form health hygiene clubs, where we are able to promote menstrual hygiene. And also, the messaging is being disseminated there in the schools.

You talked about supporting the person; what kind of support were you referring to?

The support I’m talking about here, it’s not just about financial support, as people like to think that maybe, it’s just about the money that is provided to the person, for the person to be able to afford, maybe the sanitary pad, soap and underwear, for the person to be clean and feel safe and also feel confident, even while going through the menstrual cycle. So, it’s beyond that. It’s also about emotional support. So, there are also, a lot of girls, women, that whenever they are going through their menstrual cycle, there’s a period they experience pain, and they could be moody. It affects them emotionally and all of that. So, there’s also the place of whoever is around such a person to be able to understand and also provide the necessary support in terms of emotion, understanding of what the person is passing through, and seek for ways how the person can help. Some people have to take drugs, even to be able to cope with pain during that period. Some people might decide to just be alone during this period. All of this shows the peculiarities of the menstrual cycle for a woman and for a girl child, which is actually something that we need to consider and need to understand.

UNICEF has actually done a lot in this regard, in several communities and in schools, especially, to ensure that the girl child and girls are reached and are able to afford these things whenever they need them. Like I said before, a more sustainable way for menstrual aging, that is, in terms of material, is the provision of Reusable pad. Reusable pad in the sense that it can be washed and reused. You understand, because of the fact that we have also noticed that when you provide disposable one, it’s not realistic for you to be sustained. So, for the reusable pad it’s something that you can wash, and detergent is provided that you can be able to wash the menstrual and the pad, every time you use it. So, usually you see them in a pack of, like, about five, five pieces in a park. So, and this has really helped and is much more sustainable. And also, it doesn’t have the environmental implication of littering the environment when you consider climate change and all of that, so that we should, and so that we can avoid also polluting the environment and all of that.

What role do you think government at all levels should play, policy wise, to reduce the challenges faced by school girls?

Just like we already know, the theme is ‘a period-friendly world.’ And we are saying that the slogan is like ‘together for a period-friendly world,’ which means that it’s not an effort of one person. It requires togetherness. It requires many people coming together. And in that regard, based on your question, the government actually can do a lot and should actually be involved in ensuring a period-friendly role. And many of some of the things that the government can do in terms of policy, the government should ensure that, especially in schools where we have girl children, the sanitary facilities that are there are also period-friendly in the sense that it also has water; that sanitary facility are made available, like latrine, or there are also spaces where you can provide even in the school where young girls are able to go, that should be a separate place and everyone feels confident to enter into such a place different from boys so as to prevent gender-based violence.