By Demola Oriyomi Ojo.
Sustainable development advocate and volunteer with SuS Pads & Hope Spring.
It is a fact that menstruation is a natural biological process. It is also a fact that every girl, from around the age of 12, until middle age, between the ages of 45- 55 will menstruate every month. Managing this monthly cycle can cause physical and financial challenge for many women and girls in Nigeria. These challenges are compounded by the fact that menstruation is shrouded in secrecy in some parts of the country. Up and down Nigeria, there are a lot of unhelpful myths and taboos around this natural biological process.
Many girls and women, do not have access to basic menstrual hygiene material. Lack of these essential materials such as tampons or sanitary pads, makes many girls and women dread the oncoming or their monthly period. This makes women feel disempowerment and causes absenteeism in school-age girls.
In a bid to help alleviate period poverty in Nigeria, Hope Spring Water Charity came up with a new initiative called SuS Pads. The project teaches girls how to make their own reusable menstrual pads, from suitable fabrics. According to Miss Bolu Olorunfemi, the project manager for SuS Pads. The rationale behind the initiative was to equip girls with the skills and knowledge they need, to avoid period poverty. She added that if you have the skills to make your own reusable cloth sanitary pads, you will have a hitch-free period every month.
This new period poverty alleviation initiative had its first workshop on November 20, 2019, at Marvelous Eagle School Apo Village, Abuja. Working with over 20 girls from the school, Bolu Olorunfemi and her team of one seamstress and four volunteers imparted the girls with crucial skills. The workshop, which was called Make your own cloth sanitary pad, started with a short lecture about menstrual hygiene management. It then went on to the practical aspect, where the girls were shown how to sketch out, measure and cut fabrics, into the shape of menstrual hygiene pads. The girls were then shown how to sew the pads, using two sewing machines made available for the workshop.
Celena Daniel, a student of Marvelous Eagle Academy who participated in the workshop spoke about the workshop and how it impacted her “the workshop has impacted my life remarkable because, during menstruation, I do stay at home in order to avoid shame as I experience stains on my cloth during menstruation. This training has enabled me to learn a lot on how to take care of myself during menstruation. I am also glad that I learn to make a reusable menstrual pad that does not cost much. I am now confident I can make for myself, and teach my loved ones at home how to make their own pads.
Another participant Nnaji Bridget said that “the workshop has helped a great deal, with this initiative, she would be able to save more money instead of spending on disposable pads every month. According to her, reusable menstrual pads make sense. I can use the pad for two years or more.
Bolu Olorunfemi compared the SuS Pads initiative with previous Hope Spring menstrual hygiene workshops, where they give disposable pads to school girls. She said “A popular adage goes; give a woman a fish and you feed her for a day. Teach a woman how to fish and you feed her for a lifetime. Therefore instead of gifting the girls’ disposable menstrual pads, it is more empowering to teach them how to make a reusable menstrual pad, that will last them for years. “ She and her team expect to help empower more women and girls, by teaching them how to make their own reusable pads.