Pad Bank NigeriaIn Nigeria, safe, hygienic and dignified menstruation remains a privilege, not a right. In fact, as of 2021, 37% of menstruating girls and women in Nigeria do not use sanitary pads due to lack of access. This is an issue felt most profoundly by the nation’s poor. Seventy-one percent of households in the lowest wealth quintile lack access to the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities necessary for menstrual hygiene management (MHM). However, thanks to NGOs such as Pad Bank Nigeria, the mission to end period poverty has well and truly begun.

In an interview with the Borgen Project, Ibrahim Faleye Hero Aramide, founder of Pad Bank Nigeria, shared his experience learning about period poverty, insights on the importance of education and aspirations for a future where affordable, hygienic and dignified menstruation is the rule, not the exception.

The Beginning

Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria as the only boy in his household, Faleye was often sent on errands to purchase sanitary pads for his sisters. Unlike most boys and men in a society where menstruation is often seen as taboo, Faleye was aware of its existence from a young age. What he was not aware of, however, was menstrual poverty.

It was in March 2019, while working as a shop assistant in a local grocery store, that Faleye realized that safe and affordable MHM was far from the norm. After helping a teenage girl feel able to purchase sanitary pads and providing her with a larger size instead of the economic sachet she was able to afford, Faleye’s mission for menstrual justice began.

A mere month later, on April 6, he organized his first menstrual health drive for his birthday, galvanizing local family and friends to the cause.

Pad Bank Nigeria

Today Faleye stands proud as the founder of the NGO Pad Bank Nigeria.

The aims of the organization are divided into two strands: advocacy and awareness, specifically for boys and men, and provision of sanitary products, particularly for the 40% of Nigerians who live below the poverty line as of 2022.

Education and Awareness

Faleye is a strong advocate for male education on menstruation. Through work in schools and other educational establishments, he aims to create a culture where boys grow up able to cater to and care for girls and women during menstruation.

In kickstarting cross-gender conversation on the issues girls face around menstruation, from the struggle to access affordable sanitary products to being forced to miss out on school and examinations, period poverty and its consequences no longer have to be endured in silence.

As Faleye remarked, raising awareness is the first step in creating a solution.

The consequences of menstrual poverty have powerful ramifications. As absence from education accumulates with each month of menstruation, so too do the adverse effects on academic performance.

With 6.7% fewer girls than boys completing lower secondary school in Nigeria as of 2010, and 18.6% fewer women aged fifteen or above possessing basic literary skills than men as of 2018, the gender gap in education is abundantly clear. This is also the case in the labor force, with female participation standing at 13.4% less than that of men as of 2022. Nigerian women are thus more susceptible to unemployment, financial instability and falling into poverty.

Eradicating menstrual poverty is a vital step to eradicating poverty on a wider scale.

The Future

Looking to the future, Faleye believes that the solution lies in a combination of grassroots efforts and advocacy to spark direct changes in government policy. He notes the sizeable impact of introducing policies to eradicate or reduce tax on local manufacturers, as well as raising awareness that such policies exist.

This work in ending period poverty also goes hand in hand with pad drives and NGO missions such as those of Pad Bank Nigeria.

This is particularly important in helping menstrual products and awareness campaigns reach rural communities and assisting the Nigerian government in implementing, monitoring and evaluating the effects of policy within communities.

Faleye has bold and transformative aspirations for Pad Bank Nigeria and indeed for the mission to end menstrual poverty across the globe.

When asked where he sees the NGO in the next five years, Faleye presents an inspiring vision. He aims to be the nation’s solution to menstrual poverty and the leading domestic organization in providing menstrual relief and period management.

Through the creation of walk-in branches for individual menstrual support and management as well as providing high-quality menstrual products and services to adolescent girls from 10-19 across all 36 states in Nigeria, to name but a few of his proposed solutions, it seems Faleye’s vision of a nation free from menstrual poverty is fast becoming a reality.

–  Izzy Grout
Photo: Flickr

Organizations Fighting Period PovertyLack of access to menstrual products impacts many girls and women in both the developing and developed world. Having a period without access to proper sanitation products can hurt a girl’s educational and life opportunities. However, these four organizations fighting period poverty are providing access and empowerment to girls and women in need.

Top 4 Organizations Fighting Period Poverty

    Highschoolers Nadya Okamoto and Vincent Forand founded PERIOD in 2014 to combat period poverty and period stigma. Okamoto was inspired to help launch the nonprofit after dealing with homelessness as a teen. Homeless women often lack access to menstrual products because they cannot afford them or because shelters do not have enough products to go around. Today, PERIOD has more than 300 chapters that help distribute period products around the world, and so far, 510,181 women have been served by PERIOD’s work. The nonprofit is also fighting to eliminate the luxury tax on tampons and pads in the U.S. and abroad.
  2. Freedom4Girls
    Founded in 2016 by Tina Leslie, Freedom4Girls was inspired by Leslie’s experience working with the charity Maji Safi Projects in Kenya. During her time there, Leslie helped with Maji Safi Projects’ period poverty campaign, which consisted of creating sewing workshops for local women, making washable, reusable menstrual pads and delivering the pads to schools in the semi-rural area of Mombasa. The project also provided reproductive and menstrual education to girls and women in the community. Currently, Freedom4Girls provides menstrual products to 30 schools in the U.K. in order to increase girls’ abilities to go to school and participate in extracurricular activities while on their periods, since often, teachers are tasked with supplying menstrual products to their students. Freedom4Girls also works with community groups and other organizations fighting period poverty to host “Donation Stations” in order to collect menstrual products for other vulnerable groups, such as refugees.
  3. Dignity Period
    Dignity Period is a prime example of women’s empowerment and women’s health coming together to improve lives. In 2014, Fulbright Scholar Dr. Lewis Wall spent eight months improving residency education in gynecology and obstetrics at Mekelle University’s College of Health Sciences in Ethiopia. During his time there, he and his wife met Freweini Mebrahtu, owner of the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory. Seeing that period poverty was an issue that could be resolved through outreach, education and empowerment, Wall and Mebrahtu partnered to create Dignity Period. Today, Dignity Period partners with Mekelle University to conduct studies about the socioeconomic and cultural impact of periods and to provide education; at the same time, the nonprofit provides reusable menstrual pads to community members through Mebrahtu’s factory, which trains and employs women in the area.
  4. Days for Girls
    Days for Girls (DfG), like other organizations fighting period poverty, provides reusable menstrual products for girls in need. However, it is unique in the way its menstrual products are created and how they impact communities. Days for Girls has developed menstrual product kits that are provided to women and girls in need. Each DfG Kit is sewn by volunteer individuals or chapters and begins as a Portable Object of Dignity (POD). PODs include one waterproof shield and two absorbent liners and serve as gateways to the creation of small businesses for local women. PODs are extremely affordable and can be easily adapted to the needs of the customer, meaning that women in developing countries can use PODs to start and grow their own micro-enterprises selling DfG Kits. There are five kits currently distributed by Days for Girls: the POD, DfG POD Plus, Supreme DfG Kit, Heavy Flow DfG Kit and the Menstrual Cup Kit. Each kit contains reusable menstrual pads, a washcloth, a drawstring bag, panties and other essentials for a dignified period.

Women and girls around the world face the impacts of not having access to menstrual products and reproductive education. Absences from school, decreased opportunities for socioeconomic mobility and loss of dignity are only a few of the struggles faced by those living in period poverty. As a result, organizations fighting period poverty are taking a stand to empower these women and improve their futures.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Pixabay