SheHUB Nigeria: Breaking The Jinx Of Nigeria’s Period Poverty

In Nigeria, the majority of girls from low-income families suffer from acute period poverty. As if this is not enough, they  do not have access to adequate information about menstrual hygiene.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that Nigeria has an alarming percentage of young girls who miss school owing to period poverty.

Aside from this, most Nigerian schools lack functional restrooms where girls may clean themselves during their menstrual periods. Due to the rising inflation that plagued the country, the cost of sanitary pads is also a grave concern. Typically, one pad costs roughly $1.33 which poor households can find hard to raise.

According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, this has led to absenteeism, truancy and forced some girls to turn to using unsafe measures such as unclean rags; leaves, toilet rolls and bits of cloth because their parents cannot afford the sanitary pads.

In Lagos, the commercial hub of the country, the stark reality as seen in the data is the fate of most young girls who are between secondary school ages. Meanwhile, an initiative is waging war against this.

Making a Difference…

Tuga Temini, aged 15, could not hold back her elation when an advocacy team visited her school to educate female students on menstrual health and hygiene management. Each student received sanitary pads.

“I was completely taken aback when this initiative was brought to my school. It teaches young girls about their menstrual periods from learned experts,” said the student of the State High School Oyewole in the Agege area of the state.

“Some girls will never feel ashamed again whenever they’re doing their cycle after the training we have had. Before this time, they used to feel shy and felt rejected about it. Most of my mates in the school couldn’t afford to buy pads, so they used filthy wrappers or toiletries,” Tuga stressed.

Mariam Salihu, the project lead at Achievers Foundation, told  that she was displeased whenever she saw girls being treated badly in the society: “I feel very irritated and angry when I see girls being relegated due to gender inequality.”

In November 2021, she started the nonprofit organization committed to promoting gender issues to fight barriers faced by girls  in a bid to curb social inequalities. Armed with reusable pads as her weapon, she and her team visit schools to educate girls on menstrual health management. Her impacts have been felt across Lagos, Kwara and nearby states where she has distributed pads to over 700 girls.

‘Girls Are Not Weaker Vessels’

“I’m not a feminist but I’m sure, girls are not weaker vessels and they deserve a voice. I want to change this and give back to society,” she told She after a recent outreach in another part of Lagos.

Period poverty has a wide range of consequences, from increased risk of urinary tract infections to exposing teenage schoolchildren to transactional sex with males in exchange for money to buy pads. It also has a negative impact on schooling, with evidence finding that it has a negative impact on school attendance rates, particularly for girls.

However, advocates like Mariam Salihu who are working to change the barriers usually face financial constraints.

“We wish to do more but funds are limiting our capabilities because we’re unable to push things forward. Despite this, we’ve made a major hit through crowdfunding,” she said.

Some other times, getting a school to understand that they are in the school to drive a vital cause is a big challenge.

“The attitudinal way some schools received us is nothing to write home about. Before we can get them to cooperate with us, we go through a lot of processes. Yet, we keep at it,” she added.

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