World Menstrual Hygiene DayWorld Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated worldwide on May 28. Started by a German nonprofit WASH United in 2013, May 28 was chosen to represent the average length of a period, which is five days, and the average menstrual cycle that lasts 28 days. World Menstrual Hygiene Day aims to reduce the stigma around periods, promote awareness about menstrual hygiene management and advocate for ending period poverty.

What is Period Poverty?

According to the American Medical Women’s Association, period poverty can be defined as “inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management.” The United Nations Population Fund also describes the “increased economic vulnerability” that women face when trying to afford menstrual hygiene products. In low-income countries, insufficient access to menstrual products or proper sanitation facilities can lead to young girls missing school or even abandoning education altogether, affecting their economic opportunities. More than 500 million people worldwide have inadequate provisions to manage their menstrual hygiene.

Period Poverty in Nigeria

In Nigeria, more than 25% of women do not have adequate privacy for menstrual hygiene management and access to menstrual products varies largely by region. For example, 37% of women in Kaduna State obtained menstrual products as compared to 88% in Lagos. In 2022, a pack of sanitary pads can cost $2.25, even though around 40% of Nigerians live below the international poverty line of $1.90 per person per day as of 2018.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated period poverty due to shortages in menstrual products and an increase in prices, which only worsened further with the Russia-Ukraine war.

For most of 2020 and 2021, the pandemic also prevented nongovernmental and humanitarian organizations from continuing their menstruation education initiatives in rural areas, but multiple campaigns were held in 2022 to celebrate World Menstrual Hygiene Day. Here are five NGOs that commemorated the day by campaigning for an end to period poverty:

Global Citizen x BeyGOOD Fellows

As part of the “We Can. Period.” project, international advocacy organization Global Citizen and Beyoncé’s BeyGOOD fellowship program hosted workshops on menstrual health for schools in Lagos, promoting awareness about period poverty. In partnership with UNFPA, the organization provided students with 100 free reusable sanitary pads as well as 60 yards of fabric to create their own reusable pads.

PadUp Africa

The nonprofit was founded in 2017 with the aim of destigmatizing periods across Africa, through sensitization campaigns on menstrual hygiene management. PadUp Africa held a ‘Walk for Pad’ rally in Abuja, their second time hosting the event. Attendees walked to show their support for federal policies to address Nigeria’s period poverty and provide free menstrual products in schools.

Aniedi Etim Foundation

The foundation, in partnership with the company Oriental Energy Resources, hosted workshops on sanitary pad usage and menstrual health as part of the Girl Child Menstrual Health Education Outreach initiative. The workshops were held in a secondary school at Akwa Ibom State, where the Aniedi Etim Foundation and Oriental Energy pledged to provide students attending the event with a one-year supply of free sanitary pads.

Plan International

The international humanitarian organization, which works to support children’s rights and equality for girls, arranged a hybrid event in Bauchi State, in partnership with the Kimberly-Clark company. The event featured panel discussions with students, government officials, development partners and journalists around the theme of “Menstruation Matters: My Period, My Pride.” The purpose of the event was also to call on the Nigerian government to provide free menstrual products for adolescent girls in order to reduce period poverty.

Tabitha Cumi Foundation

The Nigerian NGO aims to empower women in marginalized communities across the country. It hosted a training session at the Abuja School of the Deaf to empower young girls with disabilities to manage their menstrual health. The event also drew attention to the necessity of inclusive menstrual health programs that are adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. Its World Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management Day commemoration was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Women Affairs and the National Centre for Women Development. Company Procter & Gamble also sponsored the distribution of free menstrual hygiene kits and sanitary pads at the event.

A Look Ahead

While these events were hosted on World Menstrual Hygiene Day, the organizations, among many others, work year-round to advocate for better policies and facilities to end period poverty in Nigeria.

– Ramona Mukherji
Photo: Flickr