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


The Plight of Period Poverty in Nigeria
Period poverty occurs when someone cannot afford proper menstrual hygiene products, including tampons and sanitary pads. Health experts have labeled period poverty as the cause of why students, girls in particular, routinely miss school. Approximately 1.2 billion women across the world do not have sufficient access to these menstruation sanitation products. This typically leads to unhygienic practices, like using rough newspapers or cloth napkins in place of pads. According to reports by UNICEF, one in 10 African girls miss school due to their periods. This is akin to about 20 percent of a school year. Nigeria also places a heavy tax on menstrual products, with a pack of pads costing around $1.30. People who are facing extreme poverty, approximately 44% of the population, make less than $1.90 per day. Here is more information about period poverty in Nigeria.

Period Poverty in Nigeria

Period poverty in Nigeria has received little attention, but due to firsthand encounters with schoolgirls who struggle to make ends meet between school and their menstrual hygiene, more initiatives have sprung forward. In a conservative country where discussions on menstrual health are often taboo, these measures are important to start eliminating barriers to quality menstrual hygiene.

In March 2018, Ashley Lori, a health activist, began her advocacy efforts when she witnessed the impact of period poverty in Nigeria. She formed an advocacy campaign that focuses on three primary aspects: advocacy, sensitization and support programs. She developed and supported various efforts like the #1millionpadscampaign, Cover Her Stain campaign and Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28. The campaign has distributed sanitary pads to secondary students in the city of Abuja and other rural areas.

Menstrual Health Education

UNICEF developed the Menstrual Health Management (MHM) program based on its research in 2017. The program is an initiative to teach women and adolescent girls how to use “clean menstrual management material” to absorb menstrual blood and to provide access to readily available facilities to dispose of the menstrual material.

In August 2019, public health specialist and sexuality health educator Lolo Cynthia traveled to southwest Nigeria to teach students how to sew their own reusable sanitary pads. The material comprises linen and cloth and each teenager was able to take home two reusable pads and additional materials to make more. This reusable pad initiative sparked a wave of discourse surrounding sexual health. Cynthia, the founder of social enterprise LoloTalks and a UNHCR Nigerian influencer, is from Lagos, Nigeria, where she witnessed the necessity to empower these communities with sexual education firsthand.

In her NoDayOff campaign, Cynthia focused on access, awareness and affordability to alleviate period poverty. In August 2019, the campaign allocated more than 1,000 disposable menstrual pads in Lagos’ Festac Town. It was difficult to receive financial backing for her campaign, but eventually, the First Lady of Ondo, Betty Anyawu-Akeredolu, offered support. These organizations also petition for the government to take on the civic responsibility of reducing taxes or providing greater accessibility to sanitary pads.

Sanitation Initiatives

Other aid efforts include a sanitation initiative that Hope Springs Water developed. This organization emerged in Athens, Texas to increase access to drinking water and sanitation for the world’s poor. It also teaches schoolgirls how to make their own menstrual pads from sustainable fabrics. The project, SuS Pads, intends to help women make their own menstruation pads with sustainable fabrics. The organization hosted menstrual hygiene workshops, where schoolgirls learned about disposable pads and the importance of menstrual health.

Empowering women to make their own reusable pads not only improves sanitary conditions but also serves as an economic vehicle that can fuel more household income. It is an effective avenue for women to create their own businesses and profit from making their own reusable pads. There are many countries that are taking steps in alleviating the financial burden of affording menstrual products. This includes Kenya’s implementation of a historic law in 2018 that would hand out more than 140 million pads to girls in its public schools. This will eventually boost girls’ education and give access to sanitary pads to 4.2 million girls in the country. Global support channels more awareness on the issue of not only period poverty in Nigeria but in other regions as well, which helps fight the plight of global poverty.

Brittany Adames
Photo: Wikimedia Commons