Menstruation: Experts Call for Open Conversations to Challenge Taboos, Promote Gender Equality 

Funmi Ogundare 

The Managing Partner, Saide Consultants Limited and founder, Osaide for Girls in Science and Engineering Foundation, Dr. Patricia Nekpen Opene-Odili, has  called for more open conversations about menstruation, as a way of challenging taboos about it and promote gender equality.

Opene-Odili said this at a one-day symposium themed, ‘Together for a Period Friendly World’, organised by WaterAid Nigeria, in collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, to commemorate World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2024, in Lagos.

She stated that girls should have access to menstrual hygiene education and sanitary products, to ensure that they continue their education and are able to participate fully in the society.

“Good menstrual hygiene is crucial for the health, wellbeing, and empowerment of women and girls worldwide. Effective menstrual hygiene management helps prevent health risks and ensures that menstruation is managed with dignity,” she said. 

Opene-Odili, who was the guest speaker at the programme, explained that the lack of access to proper menstrual hygiene facilities like sanitary products and cultural taboos related to menstruation, contribute to poor menstrual health and hygiene.

She advised girls to ensure that they change their sanitary products regularly, as it will prevent bacterial growth and infections, change pads, tampons every four to six hours, use the right sanitary product to ensure comfort and effectiveness in managing menstrual flow, as well as maintaining personal hygiene to reduce the risk of infections and odours. 

“Wash your genital area at least twice a day with warm water. Avoid using scented products that can irritate the skin. Choose from pads, tampons, menstrual cups, or period panties based on your flow and personal preference. Staying hydrated also helps manage bloating and promotes overall health. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day,” she said.

In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Office of Drainage Services and Water Resources, Mr. Mahmood Adegbite, stated that the day is dedicated to breaking taboos and raising awareness about the importance of good Menstrual hygiene management (MHM), which  is crucial for the health, wellbeing and empowerment of women and girls worldwide.

“It plays a critical role in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential through health and dignity, education and opportunities and breaking the silence,” he said. 

He expressed concern that women lack access to affordable menstrual hygiene products, in addition to lack of access to other services such as sanitation and waste disposal systems needed to manage their menstrual cycles.

He stated that lack of access to waste disposal causes women to throw used products in toilet systems, pit latrines or discarded into open areas such as bodies of water, adding that these practices pose danger to workers who handle the wastes as it increases possible exposure to blood borne infections in soaked menstrual products and exposure to chemicals found in such products.

“Poor management of menstrual hygiene can result in cervical cancer, urinary infections, infections of the reproductive system, discrimination, marginalisation and social stigma towards women and girls,” he said.

The Country Director, waterAid, Evelyn Mere, 

stated that this year’s theme is apt as it calls for a multisectoral approach in addressing the stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation and creating a world where everyone can access the products, period education and period-friendly infrastructure they need.

She described menstruation as a normal and healthy part of life for most women and girls, adding that the resultant factor for lack of information about it leads to unhygienic and unhealthy menstrual practices creating misconceptions and negative attitudes, which motivate, among others, shaming, bullying, and even gender-based violence. 

“People who menstruate face even greater challenges in communities without decent water, sanitation and hygiene facilities especially in public places,” she stated.

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