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Menstruation & Adverse Educational Impacts in Nigeria
This letter expresses support for the expansion of UNICEF collaboration in Nigeria in regard to eliminating barriers encountered by menstruating youth in the country. In this regard, we call upon UNICEF to expand funding and construction of WASH facilities in secondary schools as well as facilitate the integration of culturally relevant menarche education in school curriculum and partner with the nation to improve menstrual hygiene management overall.
In Nigeria, cultural beliefs and taboos, inadequate WASH facilities, a lack of menstruation education, and insufficient menstrual hygiene management disproportionately impact Nigerian secondary school girls and menstruating youth who consequently experience adverse educational impacts and are more vulnerable for potential risks such as sexual assult and school drop out. Inadequate education on menstruation corresponds with insufficient preparedness in utilizing sanitary products, menstruation cycle, and creates stigmatization and taboos. Furthermore, inaccess due to taxation and price often leave individuals without sufficient access to menstrual hygiene products. Coupled with this, insufficient access to WASH facilities, specifically in more rural areas disproportionately impacts menstruating youth who rely on these facilities for use and disposal of menstrual sanitary products. As menstruation involves bodily fluids and blood, access to handwashing facilities and soap are imperative and a critical public health matter as well. Advocacy efforts and awareness campaigns exist, however with 250 Ethnic groups and 500 distinct languages gaps in communication exacerbates this inequity. Menstrual Hygiene Management is complex and needs to be addressed holistically and in context as a package of services that includes voice and space to talk about the issue to increase awareness amongst the overarching population and to provide adequate water, privacy and facilities for washing and disposal. Furthermore, access to affordable sanitary products is imperative not only to menstruating individuals, but to the whole population as it is a public health matter. It is necessary to create the enabling environment for the issue of menstrual hygiene management to be discussed as any other social and health issue. Menstruating youth that are deprived of equal opportunity to education today often end up deprived economically and in self-esteem later in life. Their children also suffer inequality in access to quality education compared to children of well-educated counterparts due to very limited economic power, knowledge and skills. The non-recognition of government policy and decision makers that menstrual hygiene management is a public issue of importance is erroneous and has contributed to avoidable loss of human capital, especially of the female and menstruating folk.
With an established presence in Nigeria working for gender equity, menstrual hygiene management, and the development of adequate WASH facilities across the country, this letter calls upon UNICEF to expand their efforts and work to mitigate the disproportionate risk associated with menstruation, educational outcomes and more. For these reasons, we respectfully request UNICEF expand services surrounding these inequities in Nigeria as we firmly believe that access to equitable educational opportunities, menarche education, clean and appropriate WASH facilities, and menstrual hygiene management are fundamental human rights that are currently being violated and must immediately be rectified.
Why is this important?
Tangible challenges such as inadequate materials, lack of access to sanitation products and inadequate facilities, coupled with psychological challenges such as the lack of menarche education, fear and cultural stigmatization put secondary school girls and menstruating youth in Nigeria at a disproportionate risk for adverse educational impacts and other negative outcomes.