Menstruation is a naturally occurring physiological phenomenon in adolescent girls and pre-menopausal women. Menstruation necessitates the availability of material resources to absorb or collect menstrual blood, facilitate personal hygiene and dispose of waste, ideally with adequate privacy.
Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is defined as ‘Women and adolescent girls using a clean menstrual management material to absorb or collect blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period, using soap and water for washing the body as required, and having access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials’.
Women and girls in low income settings have low awareness on hygienic practices and lack culturally appropriate materials for menstrual hygiene management (MHM) practices.
The materials used as adsorbents during menstruation in low income countries including Nigeria, vary from reusable towels (cloth torn from dresses of women and cotton fabric) to commercially available disposable sanitary pads. Menstrual hygiene needs and management of the menstrual period are basic reproductive health right of women and girls, the lack of which poses negative clinical and psychosocial outcomes.
POSSIBLE REASONS FOR LACK OF MENSTRUAL HYGIENE MATERIALS
- Lack of Awareness: Lack of awareness regarding the importance of menstrual hygiene, arising from a lack of education contribute in a major way why menstruating women do not know the use of menstrual hygiene products.
- Insecurity: Girls and women living in conflict zones especially in north eastern Nigeria have little or no access to proper menstrual hygiene materials as humanitarian organizations are unable to reach those areas. Those who managed to reach such remote and conflict-ridden areas have faced lots of challenges including kidnapping and killing of their staff.
- Pandemics: In times of pandemics like this Covid-19 pandemic or disasters, there is limited access to reproductive health services and safe menstrual hygiene materials. During this time, operations and policies are geared toward essential humanitarian needs thus, there seems to be a lack of attention to menstrual hygiene needs of adolescent girls and women.
- Cultural and Religious Taboo: Cultural and religious taboo surrounding menstruation is also another major reason why girls lack access to menstrual hygiene materials.
NEGATIVE IMPACT ON GIRLS
- School absenteeism
- Poor hygiene which could lead to reproductive or urinary tract infection. It is the fundamental right of every woman to be able to manage her menstruation hygienically. However, poverty has caused women and girls in rural areas to use dangerous and inconvenient materials which poses a great risk to their reproductive health.
- Social isolation
- Teen pregnancies
Women and girls should not live with the shame of menstruation or suffer in silence. The spread of menstrual awareness and use of hygienic products to deal with menstruation are the best ways to avoid negative clinical and psychosocial outcomes.