The pitiable condition of girl-child in Nigeria was highlighted last week in Abuja withe Pad Up Africa calling for increased sensitisation on problems afflicting women.
The sensitisation walk, which literally shut down most parts of the FCT was to raise over one million sanitary pads for indigent girls, who abscond from school because of their inability to afford sanitary pads whenever they start menstruating.
Officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) were on hand to control traffic.
The campaigners kitted in T-shirts , walked from the Millennium Park to the Federal Secretariat, down to Nitel Junction and ended up at the same park.
The Initiator and Founder of Pad-Up Africa, Ashley Lori, explained that the walk was to attract the benevolence of Nigerians towards donating sanitary pads to indigent female students to enable them stay focus on their studies.
She explained that her target was to distribute one million sanitary pads across different local governments in the country, stressing that she took up the arduous task when she saw young girls using newspapers, tissue and rags in place of sanitary pads during menstrual cycle.
She said: “I was shocked to see four girls clustered round a tree, and I saw blood on a paper. I discovered that one of the girls was trying to change her pad with a newspaper. Another girl told me that she wears up to six skirts, and keeps removing them as they get soaked in blood and when it gets to the last one she leaves the school easily because it is not fenced.
“If sanitary pad is as low as N350 and it should be affordable and accessible to girls. We sensitised a school in Nasarawa State and distributed pads. One of girls told us that her mom refused to allow her use the sanitary pad because she doesn’t want us to get used to it due to its high cost.”
Lori argued that if condoms could be subsidised, and, sometimes, distributed free to wage a war against Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs), which even makes sex a choice, sanitary pads, which are compulsory for menstruating young girls should also enjoy same subsidy:
“We saw the need for girls having sanitary pads in schools unlike the boys having the condom for free. We believe that if you can give boys condoms for free when sex is a choice, you should be able to give sanitary pads for free because girls do not have a choice. Ours should be more mandatory in government policies to have them for free in school so that girls won’t miss out of school during their menstrual period.”
She disclosed that over 25, 000 sanitary pads have been distributed to schools: “We have 62 schools in Abuja, we have reached 18 schools and cover more than 35, 000 girls. We have reached three IDP camps two in Nasarawa State, one in Minna. We have distributed over 25, 000 pads. We are looking at getting one million pads. Our aim is to make sure that government key into this and see to the distribution of sanitary pads in schools.
“We cannot sustain it. We are pushing for renewable pads. But as it is, so many people like the conventional sanitary pads. If we make it affordable and biodegradable, it will be better for us.”
A parent, who is also part of the project, John Olumide, added that campaign was also to sensitise the boys for them to know the challenges so that when they grow up and find themselves in position of authority, they would be able to help. He maintained that issues of menstrual cycle should be discussed freely in the society and not seen as offensive or vulgar so that young people will know how to handle it in future:
“We know that the future of our children is in the schools. But we are not just sensitising the girls, we are sensitising the boys as well so that they will know the challenge. Few years ago, very few people could talk about it. But now people are talking because of the awareness. By the time we talk to boys as well and they become the leaders of tomorrow they will be able to help.
“Some may not know because this is a topic that is rarely talked about. I have also accompanied them to several campaigns were I see a lot of lady who are actually passing through stress.
“The truth is if government can subsidise something as little as condoms why can’t it subsidise sanitary pad? When these young ladies start missing school because of menstrual cycle, you have automatically restrict her from competing with her peers.”