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World hygiene day: How UNICEF training enhances school attendance, income of schoolgirls in Adamawa

In order to curb the incidences of stigmatization, non attendance of school, non adherance to hygiene during menstrual periods and other harmful practices, UNICEF has trained critical stakeholders including teachers, male and female schoolchildren on the need to adhere to best practices in Adamawa State as the world marks 2023 menstrual hygiene day on 28 May 2023.

The training which took place in Jada and Guyuk local governments of Adamawa State was funded by the Netherlands Directorate-General for International Cooperation – Accelerated Sanitation and Water for All Programme II (DGIS-ASWA II).

The training has without doubt paid premiums as the stakeholders maintained that it has served as a veritable tool upon which very glaring attitudinal changes especially as it relates to the “thorny” issue of menstruation which discussion is hitherto seen as a taboo and moral bankruptcy is viewed in our conservative societies.

But with the UNICEF intervention, stakeholders are now on the same page and discussing the issue freely without any “strings attached”. The outcome according to the stakeholders has become a win-win situation for the growth of education in the area.

More importantly, the training has opened a vista of business opportunities for the young girls who are now smiling to the bank on account of their abilities to manufacture reusable menstrual pads locally which is cheaper and can be reused for up to six months.

The most striking feature about the training is that while it provides a solution around a very thorny issue, it also creates a business opportunity for menstruating girls who have begun to make income out of the initiative.

During a one day field visit to Tsohon Tikke Primary school, one of the schools which benefitted from the trainings by UNICEF, stakeholders regaled the visiting team of reporters how the intervention changed their world views about menstruation completely.

Speaking about the success of the training, the head teacher of the school, Musa Umar noted that the most striking achievement was that the training provides an avenue where stakeholders can freely discuss about menstruation and all issues sorrounding it which hitherto is seen as a taboo.

“In a conservative society such as ours, it was hitherto seen as moral bankruptcy to talk about issues like that. In fact, when the issue was first muted to me I shrank with excitement and fear because I could not see myself, a Fulani man discussing such issue with my students.

“But as it is now the training has led to a seamless relationship between the parents, teachers and the students and whenever any friction arises as a result of misconception, we usually address that amicably in a family way,” he said.

He noted that most of the issues around menstruation especially concerning new starters have been nipped in the bud because of the massive awareness as both students, teachers and parents have built mutual trust on the subject.

He noted that now there is first aid box in the school which contains the reusable pads and any girl who has flow while in the school will be given one instead of sending her home. According to the headteacher, the pupils on their part are opening up whenever they experience any issue relating to menstruation.

He thanked UNICEF for equipping the school with a borehole, and modern toilet facilities for boys and girls, noting that the development has improved learning atmosphere in the school.

He also thanked the organization with the training on general hygiene adding that the students have become vanguards of hygiene at a very early stage in their lives which will endure for the rest of their lives.

Also speaking, the WASH coordinator of Jada local government, Obadia David thanked UNICEF for the training it provided on hygiene.

He noted that no fewer than 60 children from the age of 13 to 17 across 20 schools in the local government have been impacted just as he urged other well meaning individuals and organizations to complement the good gesture.

A student of the school, Aisha Sulaiman while narrating the benefit from the training noted that one of the greatest achievements she gained is that she could now openly discuss about the topic without fear of repercussions.

She added that another thing is the fact that she can now effectively take care of herself during her period adding that she got the most important knowledge about menstruation during the training.

Sulaiman noted that another important knowledge she got is how to prepare the reusable pad which is highly cost effective and lasts up to six months if used under strict hygiene adding that that has tremendously reduced the monetary pressure of having to buy the manufactured pads which goes at an extortionate price.

She said as a result of her knowledge of making such pads, she does not skip classes on account of menstrual flow adding that has impacted her pedagogical development.

Sulaiman added that one major thing is that she has started producing such pads and selling to members of the community and has already started making personal income out of the venture.

The world menstrual hygiene day is being celebrated amidst calls for increased investment in menstrual health.

In a statement by Ms. Jane Bevan, Chief of WASH, UNICEF Nigeria, UNICEF noted that data by the Nigeria Multiplier Cluster Survey in 2021 showed that nearly 17 percent of women and girls aged 15-49, do not participate in social activities, school or work due to menstruation.

She therefore called on partners to take the right action at ensuring that these class of vulnerable Nigerians are given some sense of belonging through increased investment in the sector.

She noted that, “menstrual Hygiene Day is a day to advocate for equitable and dignified menstrual health and hygiene.”

Bevan noted that Stigma, poverty, and lack of access to basic services like toilets and water are causing menstrual health and hygiene needs to go unmet and increasing women and girls’ risk of infections.

She noted that the focus of this year’s campaign is to ensure commitments for improving menstrual health and hygiene, including access to products/services, education and information for menstruating women and girls, to better understand menstrual health and help end stigma.

“The slogan is #WeAreCommitted to creating a world where menstruation is a normal fact of life by 2030. Menstruation is normal – lets normalize it. We are committed to creating a world without period stigma. We are committed to creating a world where everyone has access to menstrual products. 

“We are committed to creating a world where everyone is educated about menstruation. We are committed to creating a world where everyone has access to period-friendly toilets.

“We are committed to creating a world where menstruation is a normal fact of life by 2030,” she said.

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