As Nigeria marks the Menstrual Hygiene Day 2022, the Bread of Life Development Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Ota, Ogun State, has advocated for the domestication of menstrual hygiene rights and the development of a national menstrual hygiene policy in Nigeria to strengthen these rights.
Menstrual Hygiene Day is an annual awareness day observed on May 28 to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) at a global level. The theme of World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2022 is “to create a world where no woman or girl is held back because they menstruate by 2030”.
According to the group, menstruation is an essential and inevitable activity for Nigeria’s 42 million women and girls of reproductive age, necessitating a human rights approach to menstrual hygiene management and development of a policy framework at national and state levels to safeguard this right.
“Menstrual hygiene products and mode of disposal should be easily assessable to every girl, child, and woman.
“The need, therefore, arises to develop policy and legal frameworks that guarantee the right of Nigerian women to menstrual hygiene, ensuring access to essential equipment, material, and facilities that help protect their dignity and prevent health risks,” said Bread of Life in a statement signed by its Programme Officer, Rachael Ogundipe.
The organisation noted that proper menstrual hygiene management requires access to materials and facilities such as water, sanitary pads, bins, and gender-sensitive toilets in workplaces, offices, schools, public places, markets, religious centres, and other public places.
It stated that the right to menstrual hygiene would guarantee access to affordable menstrual hygiene products to absorb or collect the flow of blood during menstruation and ensure the provision of menstrual hygiene sensitive toilets that guarantee privacy for women and girls to change menstrual materials.
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2 hopes to ensure that, by 2030, there is access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, paying particular attention to the needs of women and girls.
To achieve this, public and private sector players should initiate actions towards the progressive realisation of menstrual hygiene as a human right, suggested Bread of Life.
It stressed that every Nigerian woman of reproductive age has a right to affordable menstrual hygiene products as an essential human need, adding however that menstrual products are presently unaffordable to many Nigerians, mainly the girl child and other low-income women in vulnerable communities.
The group stated: “The Federal Government should reduce import duties and taxes on menstrual products and make it Value Added Tax (VAT) free to ensure the affordability of menstrual products.
“This is in line with best practices. In countries such as Scotland, New Zealand, France, Kenya, and Botswana, different methods have been introduced to manage menstrual hygiene, such as providing free sanitary pads to all school-aged girls. Kenya also eliminated the ‘pink tax’, which is the charge on menstrual products.
“Educational institutions should make menstrual hygiene products accessible at a free or subsidised rate to every girl child of reproductive age.
“We call on philanthropic/charity organisations, religious groups, non-governmental organisations, and politicians to sponsor the distribution of subsidised menstrual pads for women below the poverty line and girls in low-income communities.”
While noting that most public offices and business premises are not menstruation friendly, and most workplace administrative manuals and human resources policies are presently silent on menstrual hygiene, Bread of Life called on corporate organisations to ensure that the menstrual needs of their staff are addressed in human resources manuals and policies, paying attention to the menstrual needs of women in their organisation.
“Specifically, women of reproductive age should be entitled to menstrual hygiene leave, and it should be clearly stated in the workplace policies.
“Provisions should be made for menstrual hygiene bins in institutions and public toilets in Nigeria for the safe disposal of menstrual wastes.
“Public authorities should also enforce the quality standard of menstrual hygiene products like menstrual pads, menstrual cups, and tampons, as several substandard menstrual products in the Nigerian market compromise menstrual hygiene health. We urge professional, trade and labour unions to take this as an advocacy action.
“Generally, households and public water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities should allow women and girls to safely, comfortably, and privately manage menstruation – and must be accessible to girls and women with disabilities.”
Bread of Life further advocated for the development of a National Policy on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in Nigeria, adding that this will promote access to all needed materials and facilities to promote menstrual hygiene.
While admitting that existing sectoral policies make references to MHM, Bread of Life believes MHM issues deserve a stand-alone policy.
“The first step towards the realisation of the human right to menstrual hygiene in Nigeria is the development of a menstrual hygiene policy in Nigeria,” said the group.
Noting that there is presently no approved policy at the national and state level on MHM in Nigeria, Bread of Life called on the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and the Nigerian Technical Working Group on Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management (MHHM) to fast track the development of policy on menstrual hygiene management in Nigeria, describing menstrual hygiene as a cross-cutting issue.
Bread of Life urged MHM related ministries to review their sector policies to address MHM.