Safe Periods for girls in Nigerian urban slums

by Girl Child Art Foundation(GCAF)
Safe Periods for girls in Nigerian urban slums
Safe Periods for girls in Nigerian urban slums
Safe Periods for girls in Nigerian urban slums
Safe Periods for girls in Nigerian urban slums
Safe Periods for girls in Nigerian urban slums
Safe Periods for girls in Nigerian urban slums
Safe Periods for girls in Nigerian urban slums
Safe Periods for girls in Nigerian urban slums
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Sensitizing women 2

 

Dear Friends,

 

Greetings from Girl Child Art Foundation!

 "Research shows an undeniable link between poverty and sexual violence. Period poverty is one of the vast causes of sexual violence, which could ruin or jeopardize the victims' mental and social state, often leading to young girls dropping out of school. One out of every ten girl child might be a victim of sexual violence because she could not afford sanitary products, which tend to make her seek assistance from the perpetrators of this crime. According to UNICEF, about 37 per cent of the total population of women in Nigeria are faced with the challenge of not being able to afford sanitary products. A cyclical dynamic exists between sexual violence and period poverty.

Ultimately, period poverty could result in a girl's right being infringed upon and making her sexually vulnerable, making her more dependent on these men or boys for survival and therefore less able to control her sexuality to consent to sex. Period poverty increases a girl child's vulnerability to sexual exploitation. One in three girls living in the urban slum of Nigeria has experienced sexual violence and abuse. When a girl cannot afford her sanitary pads, she is likely to ask people who, in turn, take advantage of her.

"We had a story of a young girl who was gang-raped and drugged by her boyfriend and his friends because she had asked him for money to buy her sanitary pads".

OUR EMPHASIS 

 To a more significant extent, parents who haven't had proper sexual and menstrual orientation could not play their parts properly by educating their children on how to manage their periods and safe sex practice. In some conservative parts of Africa, parents shy away from sex education. When these girls reach out to their parents in discussions about sex and menstrual hygiene, they tend to get a cold response. A typical example of this scenario is one of the girls we met during our local forums, whose mother told her off when she found out she was ill, telling her that if she got pregnant, she would be thrown out of the house. All of these have a significant negative impact on the girl child. We at GCAF have committed to working with parents through community engagement activities. We do this by bringing in experts to sensitize, share experiences and teach parents how to communicate and educate their children on safe sex, how to manage their periods and practical behavioural approach to understanding their girl child's immediate needs.

At GCAF, we must sensitize and educate these girls early on about the challenges and stress that come with having their monthly periods by taking practical steps to teach them how to use their pads and liners correctly, the proper hygiene, safe sex and pregnancy. We provide the girls with good sanitary products, equipping them ahead of time. In addition, we offer them a space where they can come to express themselves freely without being afraid or shy to talk about their challenges. We encourage them to be innovative and harness their potential to break through the barriers limiting them from reaching their goals in life.

(A girl) I learned so far from our training sessions how to use pads, align panty liners properly on her pants, maintain good hygiene during her menstrual periods, and understand my body."

We work with parents 

of the girls who participate in our activities, community leaders, and women leaders to support girls living in the poorest parts of urban areas to enhance their creativity, teach confidence, educate them and ensure they have access to sanitary products. With the help of 

Our corporate donors and sponsors have provided that we get constant supplies of these hygienic products, learning materials and hygiene resources. We have been able to reach and enhance a more comprehensive range of girls who come by our studio facility. We have recorded tremendous success in our daily interventions in educating and continuous supply of pads to these girls within our studio space, thereby helping us curb the effect of period poverty.

 

Our girls do not have to miss school anymore because of their periods. With the support of our community, partners, sponsor and your donations, we have reduced transactional sex and teen pregnancy in the community one girl at a time.

Thank you,

 Regards,

GCAF Team.

 

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This report is a reflection on the project when she bleeds.
The project “When She Bleeds” is a collection of period poems initiated by the Girl Child Art Foundation(GCAF) ahead of Menstrual hygiene day, May 28, to enable young girls to express themselves on menstrual issues through poetry.

Menstruation is a sensitive topic to discuss with young girls and is sometimes considered taboo in many cultures. Menstruation usually means that when a young girl is on her period, she could face isolation, miss school, and may not have a sanitary pad or a kit for menstrual hygiene.
According to UNICEF, roughly half of the female population, around 26 per cent of the global population, are of reproductive age. As a result, many girls do not have access to safe, sanitary products, says Ms Ananaba. These underlying reasons led GCAF to organise the campaign. The campaign elicits menstrual issues, especially during the pandemic, and creates awareness of menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

The campaign announcement reached about 80 000 views and clicks from persons between the ages of 10-64 years through our social media platforms- Instagram, Facebook pages and website. About 48 entries were received nationwide, with Lagos, Delta and Rivers states topping the chart. Each poem contains a unique story about how each girl had to cope with menstrual hygiene, especially during the pandemic.

Due to the long-year COVID-19 lockdown across the globe, the When She Bleeds project ran remotely. In addition, the pandemic posed a challenge to menstrual hygiene management, which necessitated the project.

The project had some challenges, which included;

Inability to meet the girls one-on-one
Inaccessibility to public schools

These challenges, precipitated by the pandemic, continued to hinder any physical connection and approach until recently. To tackle the challenges, the project team at GCAF are working on utilising the virtual space and social distancing for subsequent interventions and poem recitation projects.

Furthermore, the project identified some loopholes like the late viewership of social media campaign messages such as ‘When She Bleeds’ and the unlimited time for the campaign. Therefore, the organisation will make announcements to accommodate more girls into the project. It will also enable others who view the project announcements late to have enough time to participate.

Despite the challenges, there were significant accomplishments in this project;
First, the project helped drive conversation about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and create awareness. While the data collated from our Instagram and Facebook handles indicates that over 80 000 people read about the project.
Second, the project also showcased and encouraged creative storytelling through poetry.

It is important to note that many girls did not have phones- some would have preferred to participate in this project physically.
GCAF mainly worked with volunteers to carry out activities for this project. Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is a critical part of bodily autonomy and a core focus for the Girl Child Art Foundation (GCAF).

We appreciate your support, financial contributions and advisory support. Our activities and supplies are provided for these girls at no cost. Your donations make it possible to pay for the logistics and administrative costs. These would not have been possible without your efforts. Thank you for making these services available for our girls. THANK YOU!

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Demonstration of how you use a pad.
Demonstration of how you use a pad.

28th May every year marks the global menstrual hygiene day celebration. However, Girl Child Art Foundation (GCAF) celebrated this year's event on 26th May 2022 due to the national celebration of children's day in Nigeria and the fact that the 28th day of May fell on the weekend. GCAF marked this celebration with some secondary school teenagers from one of the public schools located in her community while demonstrating the #wearecommitted# theme for this year's celebration.

In celebrating the menstrual hygiene day this year, GCAF contributed and committed to addressing menstrual myths and taboos issues. GCAF designed the project to make teenage girls understand that menstrual flow is just as normal as being female, and nothing makes it unthinkable.

 

The program began at 10:00 am at Babs Fafunwa Millennium Senior Grammar School, Ojodu Lagos, Nigeria. It started with registering a total number of 393 female students present. After the registration, Sussan Okocha introduced the reason for the event to mark the Menstrual Hygiene Day for 2022. She further explained how the event for the day was divided into different segments and introduced the speakers who would be educating the girls. 

 

 The first speaker, Dr. Jumoke Oke an experienced medical doctor, talked about "menstrual education; period management as a natural process, the female body parts and roles, menstrual cycle and how it affects each person individually". She demonstrated how to use pads and other menstrual materials, disposable pants, communicate with older ones when you are experiencing any change during menstruation, manage period pains, and when ovulation and pregnancy happen after menstruation. She also talked about the challenges of seeing your period for the first few minutes and how to dispose of the used menstrual materials. 

 

Mrs Oluwatoyin Towobola, the director at WOPO and coordinator at Women Shelters Nigeria, talked about "healthy living for teenage girls". Her interaction addressed concerns on female hygiene, period myths, certain things that cause discomfort during menstruation, eating a balanced diet and practising a healthy lifestyle like exercising and resting. 

 

After each speaker, the girls asked questions and shared very personal experiences. Five (5) girls from the attendees were interviewed and allowed to share their worst menstrual experiences. For example, one of the girls interviewed by the name of Juliana recounted how she was unable to take her bath at a church camp for three days during her menstrual flow. In addition, she stated how a friend had to get her water to wash in a hidden corner of the church because she was ashamed during her menstrual flow. Another girl also shared how she was drugged and gang-raped because she went to beg a boy for money to buy pads for her period. 

 

At the end of the workshop, GCAF conducted an assessment survey amongst the girls to enable us to assess their level of knowledge and understanding. For the final activity, we distributed pads and soaps to the girls. 

 

After a photo session with the students, Mrs Ayeni, Mrs Babalola, Sussan Okocha and Mrs Obiwumi went to the principal's office to hand over the trash buckets for the female toilets. The principal was very appreciative and thanked the organization for taking the time to teach and also counsel the girls. 

A total of 588 persons registered at the event: 583 Students, two counsellors, one teacher, two guest speakers and 2 GCAF staff; also benefited from the menstrual materials distributed due to the large population of the students in the school.

 

OUTCOMES

  1. At least 600 female students of Babs Fafunwa Millennium Senior Grammar School, Ojodu Lagos, became aware of the global celebration of menstrual hygiene day every 28th May.
  2. About 550 girls now have sanitary pads and bathing soaps for one menstrual cycle.
  3. Two female toilets at the school now have sanitary bins for disposing of used hygienic materials.
  4. At least 450 girls now understand the best way to care for themselves during periods days. How to use different menstrual materials and how to dispose of them.
  5. About 450 girls from the Ojodu and Ogba community now understand what to do when experiencing discomfort during menstruation, eating a balanced diet, and practising a healthy lifestyle. 

 

The event was very successful because we helped the girls understand that the menstrual flow had nothing demeaning and encouraged them to break the silence on menstrual hygiene, raise awareness and change harmful norms around menstrual hygiene. The program ended at 12:50 pm.  

Girls carrying sanitary supplies for their school
Girls carrying sanitary supplies for their school
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New supplies of sanitary pads
New supplies of sanitary pads

Many are the worries of a girl; a case study of a typical Nigerian girl child born in a low-class setting. These challenges have dual phases, including very slim remote access to quality education. In addition, child labour, early marriage and rape, lack of information on health-related issues and, of course, period poverty are not ruled out as one of the significant challenges the girl child faces.

 

According to the Royal College of Nursing in their report on Menstrual Hygiene, "Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. Period poverty is caused by a wide range of life events that negatively impact a girl or woman's ability to access hygienic products to manage a most intimate and regular occurrence. 

Period poverty is exacerbated by the cost of living crisis, as sanitary products' prices soar. In addition, according to ActionAid, many girls skip school if they don't have access to sanitary products during their period, which increases their risk of child marriage and early pregnancy. In its 2014 report, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Says; that 1 out of every ten menstruating children misses school due to a lack of access to menstrual products and resources.

 

Ariyike, one of the teenage girls living in one of the suburbs of Ogba in Lagos, shares her experience 

"{The girl}On days I have my period, I usually miss school because my mom cannot afford to buy me sanitary pads, and I don't want to risk having blood stains on my clothes and being laughed at. And on days I 

had tests or examinations, my mother would help me cut out pieces from old wrappers, folding them neatly like sanitary towels. Those pieces of clothes didn't make me feel at ease at all; I would sit quietly in the classroom keeping to myself and being so careful, so I wouldn't get stained or have the rags fall off my pant.

 

 

OUR INTERVENTIONS AND APPROACH

At The Girl Child Art Foundation, we are committed to ensuring that these girls get the support they need; we equip them with inner strength through art to boost their confidence. In addition, we educate them on sexual behaviours, menstrual hygiene, and self-esteem. As a result, about 30-40 girls access our safe space daily while providing educational services and ensuring they get kits for their menstrual periods. 

 

OUR IMPACT

According to Desmond Tutu, "If we are going to see real development in the world, then our best investment is WOMEN!" We have been keenly devoted to this cause, and the turn-up of girls from different areas of Lagos to our studio is amazing

Colouring session at our girls creative space
Colouring session at our girls creative space
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Girl Child Art Foundation(GCAF)

Location: Lagos - Nigeria
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Twitter: @Gcaflife
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GCAF Admin
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Lagos, Lagos Nigeria
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