Improving Menstrual Hygiene Practices in Nigeria
In recent times, poor hygiene practices have been a major concern at the local and international levels. Personal and environmental hygiene have been prioritized at the government level, with various intervention programs and projects. However, in accordance with achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 3 of ensuring the health and well-being of all, especially women and girls, menstrual hygiene should be given top priority and discussed extensively at all cadres of power and institutions.
Menstrual hygiene is an under-discussed topic, especially at the household and community level. In Nigeria, some cultural and religious norms are associated with menstruation, some of which include not allowing menstruating women and girls to partake in certain activities and not permitting them to prepare some kinds of foods.
These norms often encourage the stigmatization of these women and girls directly and indirectly. When girls are on their period, it often hampers their productivity, as some experience pain while some cannot properly manage their menstrual hygiene due to lack of resources.
According to UNICEF and WHO, only 29% of the Nigerian population has access to basic sanitation services. Information on menstrual hygiene management in Nigeria is limited. Menstrual hygiene is a big issue and should be addressed accordingly. Below are highlights of certain problems and recommendations:
Firstly, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) has been identified as a major issue in Nigeria. UNICEF reports that about 26.5% (approximately 50.3 million) of the population use improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities in Nigeria.
A critical tool to promoting menstrual hygiene is by ensuring the availability of clean water at strategic places such as schools, market places and other public domains across urban and rural areas.
Secondly, the cost of purchasing a pack of sanitary pads in Nigeria is relatively high for low-income earners and young dependent women. Due to this reason, some girls prefer to use leaves or rags to manage their period flow.
This, in turn, affects the productivity of these women. Some girls are unable to go to school while some women are unable to carry out their businesses effectively during their menstrual periods. When women are unable to contribute to economic activities for a number of days, it hampers the growth of the economy. Therefore, it is recommended that the government subsidizes the cost of sanitary pads to ensure affordability for all women and girls. Also, sanitary pads should be made available at public places for free.
Thirdly, stigmatization, which is often encouraged through certain cultural norms remains an issue which should be addressed.
Increased public awareness, sensitization, and education at the grassroots level are necessary to improve the knowledge of individuals on myths and norms that segregate women on their menstrual periods. Menstrual hygiene management should also be prioritized to ensure women and girls are effective during their menstrual periods, for improved productivity.