From ANIEKAN ANIEKAN, Calabar:
A women rights group, the Grassroots Gender Based Reporters is advocating for the free distribution of menstrual pads to young girls in the country.
This it says is imperative in order to help promote female hygiene for the young girls ahead of this year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day which comes up on the 28th of May.
Florence Kekong, the Cross River State Coordinator of the group made the appeal in Calabar during a session on female hygiene with members which comprised of women activists, widows, less privileged women amongst others and insisted that condoms should be sold rather than menstrual pads.
She said that young girls in the country need to be assisted in the area of menstrual hygiene and the narrative about periods should be changed so that the future of girls particularly in the area of education is not undermined.
“We need to identify solutions to menstruation-related challenges, and change the narrative about periods.
“Menstruation comes with taboos and stigma. We must speak out boldly about menstruating. This is one way we can help the girl child. This is the time to help menstruating girls stay in school and not out of school because they are menstruating.
“How do we begin to get the free Pads is the reason we are brainstorming here and hoping that all members would be active participants”, she said.
Pastor Joseph Akpata, an adviser to the group also emphasized that condoms, rather than menstrual pads should be sold because whereas sex is a choice, menstruation is not.
“Condoms should be sold and pads should be given free. Sex is a choice, menstruation is not. Young girls without money are suffering.
“We have had several agencies distributing condoms for free. Some parents even keep a pack in their children’s bags – since not all preach abstinence. Sanitary Pads should be sold and while Condom is given for free. How many girls or even their families can afford cost of pads monthly? How many families of two or three girls can afford this cost in our communities?
She called on the national assembly to consider passing legislation in the country where the cost of menstrual pads will be shifted to the pleasure of condoms.
One of the participants, Mrs Theresa said young girls need to be armed with the right information on how to properly take care of their menstrual health advising against actions that undermine the health of young girls during menstruation.
“Menstrual hygiene is up to us to do our best and help those young adolescents around us with the right information. Not many parents or guardians can afford money for pad today but we’re all rich with old clothes.
“All the girl needs to know is use special pieces of cloth from her old dresses, wash, dry them in the sun and fold them well into her pants bag so that when the menses comes the improvised pad is handy.
“Please, this is better than using tissue paper or newspapers. Please take pride in being a woman with nothing to be ashamed of, right knowledge is power.”
GGBR is a group which takes information and education to the doorsteps of women, ensuring that women living in information-poor conditions also have access to information and services they need for enhanced likelihoods.