A Non-Governmental Organization, Focusing on Women and Girls Initiative for Positive Change, has urged Federal Government to remove all taxes on sanitary pads to make them accessible and affordable.
The Executive Director of the group, Mrs. Rifkatu Ademola, made the call on Monday during sensitisation on menstrual hygiene management and distribution of sanitary pads to 1,500 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Dutse in the FCT.
Ademola, also a menstrual hygiene educator and advocate of girls’ education, said that the gesture was to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 and create a platform for the full expression of African females.
According to her, the goal is to ensure that by 2030, menstruation becomes a normal topic with no girl left behind.
She added that “It is good to see women seated in meetings where decisions that affect their lives are taken.
“We believe that menstruation is a normal phenomenon, totally natural. It is not anyone’s choice to say I decide to be a boy today, I decide to be a girl tomorrow.
“Why should anyone feel ashamed to identify with menstruation? Let there be free sanitary pads in offices, schools, airports, and everywhere. Let it be tax-free because it is not a luxury, it is not a choice. It is normal, natural, so we should embrace it.”
The FOWGI boss also quoted a UNESCO report as saying “one in every 10 girls miss school due to menstruation, stigmatisation and inadequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene facilities.
She added that some girls were forced to sit on the sand to absorb the blood.
“We discovered that girls miss school during their period every month and according to UNESCO, one out of 10 African girls misses out on school when it is their time of the month.
“We have come across girls who said they use sand so that it can absorb the blood and the fear of stigmatisation in schools, fear of getting stained makes them stay at home rather than go to school.
“It means 10 to 20 per cent of their learning process during academic activities is affected.
“We are advocating for girls to be educated; if they are missing out on school, how do we achieve that?’’ she asked.
Ademola further said that in the last five years, the NGO had distributed sanitary pads to over 59,200 students in Bauchi, Plateau, and the FCT and urged the government and private organisations to establish a pad bank, where young underprivileged girls could access pads.
“We are hoping that various national organisations and governments would adopt this scheme to introduce a pad bank, let there be an officer to carter for the need of girls in schools.
“These pad banks should be located in strategic places like schools, airports, offices, and other places where girls can immediately access it to use, particularly during an emergency,’’ she said.
On her part, Hajiya Fatima Mohammed, the Principal of GGSS Dutse, commended the organisation for its support.
Mohammed said the sensitisation on menstrual hygiene management would aid the students to know more about their cycle, build their confidence and appropriate way to ensure hygiene.
“The lesson is something that should be talked about every day because they need to be reminded of the need to adopt menstrual hygiene management, which should be part of our lives,’’ she said.
One of the beneficiary students, Miss Purity Godwin, said the sensitisation had further broadened her knowledge on the menstrual cycle and hygiene management, as well as the appropriate way to dispose of sanitary pads after use.
Godwin added that the students were taught not to be shy or stigmatise others on their period, rather, they should show support and teach them menstrual hygiene management.