Period poverty means a woman or girl is unable to afford period products. In the African continent, more than 800 million women and girls menstruate each day, but 500 million of those women do not have access to sanitary pads. As a result, in some places in the world, girls manage their periods with used rags, sand, tree bark and other unsanitary practices, leading to reproductive or urinary tract infections. This issue is prevalent in Nigeria as well, although public health specialist Lolo Cynthia is making a difference by providing health education to girls and helping them make their own cloth pads.
Period Poverty in Nigeria
Period poverty is a global issue that greatly impacts women in Nigeria, where women receive heavy taxes on menstrual products. A pack of sanitary pads costs $1.30. However, 44% of Nigerians live in extreme poverty and earn less than $1.90 per day. Inability to pay for sanitary pads places strain on finances and the physical and mental health of Nigerian women. This, in turn, leads to high anxiety and stress during menstruation.
Period Poverty in Nigerian Schools
According to the United Nations Children Fund, many schoolgirls in Nigeria view menstruation as a secretive and shameful experience. They associate it with experiencing anxiety, abdominal pain, cramps, nausea and vomiting, impacting their school work. One in 10 girls in Nigeria miss school due to their periods, and Nigeria’s conservative approach to menstruation discourages conversations about improving this issue.
A public health specialist named Lolo Cynthia, who taught 250 girls in southwest Nigeria how to make their own reusable menstrual pads from linens and cloth at a summer camp, is combatting the issue. Lolo Cynthia was born and raised in Lagos and later moved to South Africa to continue her studies. She earned degrees from Monash University at the age of 19 in public health and sciences and HIV/AIDS and health management. Lolo then worked at Nigeria’s Rave TV, where she discussed politics and lifestyles. Later, she worked on a documentary focusing on street children’s lives, drug abuse and other issues impacting women in Nigeria.
Lolo always had a passion for sexual health and social inequality, and she reveals these passions through her work on LoloTalks and MyBodyIsMine. Lolo’s efforts, which receive support from the first lady of Nigeria’s Ondo state Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, allow her to work with LoloTalks to discuss menstruation and sexual health. While she was hosting her podcast and working on LoloTalks and education program, MyBodyIsMine, she also started the NoDayOff campaign. It distributed 1,000 pads to women and girls in Lagos. Through this campaign, she quickly realized the need for a more sustainable option for women to use during menstruation. Lolo’s eco-friendly pads create an opportunity for women to control their periods and sexual health sustainably.
Benefits of Cloth Pads
Nigerian girls learning the skills to make their own pads can benefit their sexual health. Moreover, it can help them prepare for menstruation every month. The benefits of pads are:
- They are Affordable: Using cloth pads is very beneficial, especially when fighting against period poverty. Cloth pads are more affordable and can last for up to five years or longer than other types of pads and menstrual products.
- Cloth Pads are Better for the Body: Most disposable pads comprise harmful chemicals. These chemicals can negatively impact the sensitive area of the body where women place them. Cloth pads involve safe material that is chemical-free.
- Cloth Pads Increase Preparation: Using cloth pads also guarantees that women are ready for their cycle. Additionally, it reduces the chances that women and girls will reuse pads and tampons, which can pose health risks.
Lolo Cynthia’s work has received global recognition and may have an impact on how Nigeria approaches women’s bodies and health. The fight to reduce period poverty in Nigeria is only beginning.
– Nyelah Mitchell