Some stakeholders in the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector have urged all tiers of government to design policies that would promote Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) as a human rights issue.
The stakeholders made the call at an ongoing national workshop on MHM, organised by the United Nations Education Fund (UNICEF) and WaterAid in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
They asserted that the promotion of MHM is “a human rights issue” and that effective planning and programmes to promote MHM will go a long way to improve lives of women and girls in the country.
UNICEF Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) specialist, Mr Moustapha Niang, said the agency would continue to support the government, non governmental organisations and other stakeholders to improve the lives of Nigerians.
He stated that erasing myths and misconceptions about menstruation will promote better outcomes for an inclusive society for women and girls.
Niang expressed optimism that at the end of the meeting, a draft National Action Plan on MHM with responsibilities of all tiers of government would have been drafted.
WaterAid Acting Country Director, Mr Mannaseh Igyuh, said the culture of silence on menstruation matters was evident in majority of girls learning about effective MHM after their first experience.
He said there is the need to promote the design and construction of sexual and reproductive right needs in public places.
Igyuh also emphasised the need for biodegradable materials to be used, towards protecting the environment.
He said findings on assessment in Benue, Bauchi, and Plateau states, on existing MHM practices revealed deep-rooted attitudes and myths surrounding menstruation.
Executive Director, Health Aid for all Initiative, Dr Ugo Ohajuruku, said it was saddening that there is a culture of silence on sexual and reproductive health rights and MHM issues in the country.
She said the effect of poor MHM is evident in girl-child absenteeism in schools, psychological withdrawal, and infections from using unhygienic menstrual materials.
According to her, MHM is difficult to manage in poorer settings due to the inability to access water, hygiene promotion materials, thereby leading to pelvic diseases.
“We found out that poor performance in schools, loss of self esteem and stigma were as a result of lack of access to WASH in schools, these could overall lead to early marriage.
“We also found out that there is low awareness on MHM; no one is really talking to young girls. Parents and care-givers are also too busy to discuss sex education in homes.
“We need to break the misconceptions around MHM because it is a human rights issue,” she said.