The Urgent Need to Address Menstrual Poverty in Jigawa State

As the world observes the 2024 World Menstrual Hygiene Day, themed “Together for a Period Friendly World,” we can’t ignore the overlooked issue of menstrual poverty. Menstrual poverty remains a significant issue affecting numerous women and girls. Like in every part of Nigeria, Jigawa State women and girls are still facing this harsh reality.

Menstrual poverty, defined as the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, and adequate sanitation facilities, affects a substantial portion of the female population in Jigawa State.

“Growing up I used rags when I couldn’t afford pads but now I know better not to use rags. I work while going to school to be able to afford pad for myself and my siblings. Pad is now very expensive, government and organisations should help make pads accessible in schools and market places to girls who can’t afford it.” Maryam, a University student

According to the 2019/20 Nigerian Poverty Assessment by the National Bureau of Statistics, Jigawa State has one of the highest poverty rates in the country at 87.32 per cent. A lot of people will rather use their income to feed themselves than buy sanitary napkins.

The high inflation rate in the country coupled with the level of poverty in the state, more women and girls now experience menstrual poverty, lacking access to sanitary products and hygienic facilities.

“Sanitary pads are now very expensive, we got them for 200/250 before but it’s now 700/1200. We now mix our pad usage with rags to be able to use the pad for long due to the high prices of pad.”

“I once left school to come back home due to the stain, even though our school provides sanitary pads. I was too ashamed to ask for it. It would have been better if schools distributed the pads monthly without girls going through the stress of individually signing and writing names before collecting a piece during their periods. Most of us are shy” Sadiya a student.

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Girls in the state have missed school due to menstrual related issues, hindering their education and future opportunities.

“Most times we leave school when we have period stains as our school has no provision for sanitary pads which makes learning difficult. Sometimes we miss the day’s lesson  that day or period.”

“In a day, I used about four pieces of the pad before but now I can only use two or sometimes one, as sanitary pads are now expensive. Sanitary Pads were sold at 300 to 350 before but now you get it at 500 even at 650/700 depending on the type you get. Due to high prices, I have used clean clothes for my period but it’s not comfortable and you are bound to get bruises and also stain your dress.” Hajara, Rangwaji Dutse

Women and girls especially in rural areas rely on unhygienic materials, such as cloths and rags, increasing the risk of infections and health complications.

 “The prices are based on quality; I can only afford the 300 naira own. When I can’t afford pad I use dark cloth material like wrappers or head ties. Aisha Rabi’u a groundnut hawker from Zai Dutse

“I sometimes have my period without pads because I can’t afford them. They are now expensive; a pad is now sold at 600 or above, it was 300 or less in the past. I use rags instead, using those causes discomfort but it is what I can afford. Some girls use items that are more discomforting like Tissue etc.” Aisha Musa is a hawker in Dutse.

The consequences of period poverty extend beyond inconvenience and discomfort. In an interview with Dr Oyanni Peace Ofome on the complications that come from period poverty, she talked about the high risk of infections due to the long usage of the sanitary pad without changing which can also cause a mental breakdown.

“First our pads need to be changed a minimum of three times a day, carrying a pad for up to eight/twelve hours per day will be changing the PH balance of the vagina causing fungi and bacteria to grow.”

“Now because the urethra of the woman is short compared to a man, this causes the infection from the vagina to spread up to the cervix, and goes to the bladder. Causing bladder infection, it can go to the reproductive system causing Pelvic Inflammatory diseases. If these things are not treated it can lead to infertility. It can also spread to the kidney causing what we call “Pallone infraeties” kidney infection. It is a whole system of complications when not properly taking care of”

“When the infection is not properly treated it can lead to mental complications. It affects the mental state of a woman, she is not confident in her day to day life and not confident with her partner, it can lead to discrimination, like when smelling, or not being able to give birth. It led to mental breakdowns like depression and anxiety.” Dr. Oyanni Peace Ofome

Aside from increased school absenteeism among girls, a higher risk of infections due to the longer use of sanitary napkins and the use of unhygienic materials, social stigma and shame are also very pressing issues surrounding menstruation.

“My friend was once stained with blood in class and she was ridiculed by the boys. Some of the boys were saying my friend is wayward that’s why she was stained, a lot of abusive words were used on her which were disturbing.” Sadiya, Secondary School Student.

“Most boys even men do not know what period is, and so are always ready to mock us when the opportunity presents itself. The awareness should be for both girls and boys.” Hajara Dutse

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Dr Oyinna recommends that the government provide social support, knowledge and skills to girls and women to curtail menstrual poverty

“I think the government should provide social support, next is knowledge and skills. We must educate people on what is and, what simple ways we can manage our menstrual period to come out on top. Have a community of women who understand and participate in discussions on menses. Providing facilities for them and giving them access to pads. We should be in a community where pads are free for girls and women to help them improve their lives.”

Menstrual poverty is a pressing issue affecting countless women and girls. If the government encourages policy changes and support initiatives supporting menstrual equity, an increased access to affordable menstrual products and hygiene facilities and a comprehensive health education in schools and communities it will go a long way in addressing menstrual poverty in Jigawa state and Nigeria at large.

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