Poverty and Period

Atinuke Junaid
Posted June 7, 2016 from Nigeria
Volunteers and the girls withh safe and smart kit
Public Health professional educating Gbokoto girls on Menstruation
Public Health professional educating Gbokoto girls on Menstruation (1/4)

“I am a girl child. I was born in the city, grew up as a 'butty' (butty means rich in Nigeria) girl, didn't go outside to play with the street kids, played with dolls, watched cartoons, went to great schools, ate oats, sandwiches, coffee for breakfast, took doughnuts and cupcakes and yogurts to school as lunch, had milk and baked beans for dinner, called Papa 'dad' and mama 'mum' , third term breaks were 'summer holidays' and I spent them with grandma every time she came back from London, started writing diaries at age nine, loved the smell of natural roses; white and red. I was a daddy's girl, over pampered and spoilt, hated the word ‘village’.... I was born in the city, and I grew up only in the city. The city was my haven. I was SAFE!

I was born in the city, grew into my teenage years in Lagos, had my first 'toaster' before I turned twelve, felt myself so much, fresh face, fresh smiles, fresh fineness. I was able to know the difference between real and just fake fuzz! I could pass for wise and big in my brain. I was SMART!

Almost all the city's goodness was mine... Except Pads. The day I saw that thing called period, I cried. I had no idea what it was so I thought I was dying. I couldn't speak with my mum because, well, because and so I ran to my dad. He went with me to my mum and she said 'Neye, so you could not come and meet me abi! Okay!' She went to her room and gave me a tissue roll. She taught me how to securely put it together and make it safe inside. It stuck. Then tissues weren't just comfortable anymore... My aunt came, she used clothes. It was more comfortable. No tissues would hang around in my vagina, nor threads. No pads. Mummy grew up in the village. She wasn't trained that way so I wasn't. She said some times, in her time, they even used leaves. You can only give what you have. That's the way. Then I had infections.... More times than three. I couldn't sleep, I cried all night, I itched too. My flow smelled like rot. Drugs, tissues, clothes, more drugs... Then My school was invaded by a Sanitary pad company. We had a health seminar, they taught us and handed pads down. My next flow was the easiest, and the sweetest. I felt like I was just on my panties and that's it! I had a safe, smart PERIOD!

I am a girl child. I was born in the city yet I struggled with an unsafe period for a long time. Now, think, dear friend. If I, who could have had this on a platter of gold, missed it for months because of lack of proper education, then how much more the girls in the rural areas". Every girl child deserves to be safe, to be smart and to have a healthy period.

This was one of the stories that was submitted when I first started the Safe and smart Period project, she submitted this story to help start a conversation and join hands with us when we started the campaign on social media.I have always felt a deep need and a strong desire to reach out and help the underprivileged, partly because of my love for humanity and partly because I have experienced- first-hand what it feels like to be underprivileged. One day, while surfing the Internet I came across an enlightening article by Sandra Eguagie, (programme officer, African Network for Environmental and Economic justice) on menstrual hygiene implications for Nigeria. This article revealed to me that women and girls in rural communities still use cloth rags as menstrual pads and employs crude and unhygienic methods of washing and drying them due to the costs of commercial sanitary pads.

I made more research and the claims were so true, it brought back memories of my first years in school and not been able to afford something to eat not to talk of sanitary pads. I stayed back home these times and never went for lectures. Unlike the story up there, It is safe to say poverty birth this project. I also discovered that this area of public health management gets almost unnoticed in the society and how this luxury of sanitary pads even affects the attendance of girls in school. I shared these findings with some friends, their interests were triggered and we formed a team, which birth safe and smart period.

So we visited a rural community in Yewa north local government of Ogun state, Nigeria. I found out it was real as real can be as a young girl – Odunayo recounts on the unsanitary and uncomfortable methods like putting on about Four skirts when she is on her period, this was shared in private as she couldn’t speak when her mother was there, which explains that there is still so much silence about it. A very heart breaking experience that gave me teary eyesThe next time we were there, with the money raised from gracious donors in Nigeria, Paris, USA, alongside wonderful volunteers we took sanitary pads and other items to Odunayo and the other girls to help aid a hygienic and comfortable period for them.

We also educate them on how their body works during period. It was like a girl talk show as they easily open up on to us about the problems they face. From cramps, limited education, embarrassment, low self-esteem, absenteeism in school/work to not being able to afford sanitary pads even though they see it sometimes.I saw the need to upgrade to a non for profit organisation (safe and smart foundation for girls) as i sort sustainable ways to scale our impacts through environmental friendly reusable pads which will also empower the woman.

We have had project coordinators replicate what we did at that rural community in two states in Nigeria since December 2015.

Currently in discussion with an international non for profit (Days for girls) to be part of their Global alliance programme so as to achieve these sustainability plans. I am also very much open to other opportunities available in reusable pads making.

Every girl child deserves to be safe, to be smart and to have a healthy period!

This story was submitted in response to Putting the Spotlight on Maternal & Reproductive Health.

Comments 6

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Jun 08, 2016
Jun 08, 2016

Hello Atinuke,

Thank you for sharing these stories with the community, as well as your own experiences! Education is key in ensuring our future generations are able to have proper self-esteem and self-confidence to step up and bring about change to our world. Despite sexual and reproductive health being taboo topics in many areas of the world, we must continue striving to spark conversations and eliminating any misconceptions so that girls and women do not grow into individuals who are ashamed of themselves and who they are. It's so wonderful to hear about the successes of this project, as it will continue to improve the quality of lives for thousands of girls. I look forward to hearing more about your work.

With kindest regards,

Helen Ng

echo demitrez
Jun 15, 2016
Jun 15, 2016

Hi  Atinuke Junaid !

This was a great story that you have complied up to let us all know about the plight of so many sisters out there. Women have to deal with periods anyhow. It is good  if there are no hygiene issues. Awareness has to be created about this and good sanitation stuff has to be provided. 

By writing about this you are doing a great work buddy!

Love & peace!

Olaoluwa Abagun
Jun 16, 2016
Jun 16, 2016

Dear Atinuke,

I am so inspired by your article and your story.

Its amazing how you started Safe and Smart Foundation to scale up your work in empowering girls with accurate menstrual hygiene knowledge/tools. Well done!

I will keep watching out for you to cheer you on as you record amazing success stories. You Rock!

Jun 18, 2016
Jun 18, 2016

Welldone Atinuke!!!

Atinuke Junaid
Jun 19, 2016
Jun 19, 2016

Thank you everyone, I am grateful for this privilege and opportunity. Thank you for your encouraging and kind words

Aug 30, 2016
Aug 30, 2016

Well done Atinuke for caring about these young vulnerable children I cannot believe it that even now in the 21st century women in these families mothers where present do not discuss or prepare young girls for periods  Educating them about their bodies is great dealing hygienically with periods does save a lot of lives as it guards against recurrent urinary and vaginal infections so protects their reproductive health long term 

Thank you so much and Good Luck May the project live long!!