Menstrual hygiene management champions in Nigeria ready to spread key messages

Community members in the Nigerian town of Ushongo are taking up their newly instituted role as a menstrual hygiene management (MHM) champions after undergoing a rigorous training session carried out by experts on sanitation and hygiene.
Olajide Adelana
MHM champions in Nigeria
MHM champions discuss an outreach strategy to sensitize communities about menstruation

Twenty-two (22) of the new MHM champions pledged to break the silence on menstruation and spread the critical information on the hygienic and safe management of menstruation, including safe re-useable and disposal solutions, roles of family, religious leaders, traditional leaders and community in supporting safe menstrual hygiene management; and COVID-19 and personal hygiene.

MHM champions in Nigeria
MHM champions discuss an outreach strategy to sensitize communities about menstruation

“I am proud to be a champion of MHM, and I pledge to amplify it, beginning from my immediate family to the larger community, especially as it pertains to breaking the silence,” said Ms Caroline Nor, community member and one of the newly-instituted MHM champions.

MHM Champions in Nigeria

The training sessions had been conducted by the Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI) and Eunice Spring of Life Foundation (ESLF) as part of a  sensitization and awareness-raising campaign on MHM and COVID-19 across Benue State, Nigeria.

The MHM champions were recognized on 29 June, a day after Menstrual Hygiene Day in front of various partners, including the Organized Private Sector (OPS) –WASH, Civil Society Organisations Benue (CSO-B), Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN), and Benue NGO Network (BENGONET) and Rural Development Initiative.

Dignitaries at the event echoed the importance of the campaign in ensuring that no one is left behind in breaking the silence on menstruation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Before now, I was indifferent about MHM, notwithstanding that I have seven daughters,” said Mr Terhemen Swem, another newly-instituted MHM champion, now acknowledging that supporting MHM is an important indicator that one is a responsible parent.

“With this facilitation, I have taken a new stance as a very responsible father who will henceforth render counsel and economic support to my daughters as it relates to MHM. I’ll throw my full weights behind all community stakeholders in the campaign for breaking the silence,” he said.

Ms Rachel Ityonzughul, a representative of the BENGONET Rural Development Initiative, urged the newly-instituted MHM champions to be committed to encouraging and practising good menstrual hygiene especially in times of the pandemic, adding that COVID-19 is real and not a myth as many people believe.

“COVID-19 is here with us we don’t know who is infected or not. Use the face mask distributed to you today very well, observe social distancing and all the guidelines given by the Federal Government,” said Ms Ityonzughul.

“Women of child-bearing age and young girls must make a special effort to maintain good hygiene throughout their menstrual flow.”

MHM champions in Nigeria
MHM champions discuss an outreach strategy to sensitize communities about menstruation

Acknowledging funding support from OPS-WASH, a private-sector group, Ms Elizabeth Jeiyol, WSSCC’s National Coordinator for Nigeria, told the event participants that more private sector players should support WASH initiatives in Nigeria by providing hygiene materials and other palliatives to women and girls, other vulnerable groups in communities across the country.

Another key highlight at the event was the distribution of hygiene kits, including reusable menstrual pads, to vulnerable women and girls, in support of making menstrual materials affordable for women and girls.

On behalf of Dr. Eunice Ortom, the First Lady of Benue State, Mr Tine Agernor, Programme Manager, Eunice Spring of Life Foundation (ESLF), delivered a statement, commending partners for their strides in breaking the silence on menstruation and supporting women and girls in the management of their menstruation in a healthy, hygienic and dignified manner.

In the statement, the First Lady of Benue State, who is also a WASH Champion and MHM Ambassador, expressed delight at the opportunity availed the people of Ushongo to learn about, and put into practice, healthier ways of living in the face of COVID-19.

She also called on all participants to be intentional in their efforts so that the goal of promoting their health and prosperity as a people and a community would be achieved and reaffirmed her own commitment to taking needed actions in promoting menstrual hygiene programmes in Benue State and beyond.

On behalf of CSO-B, a coalition of civil society organizations in Benue’s WASH sector, Mr Raymond Jooli, called on civil society organizations in the state to step up efforts to tackle cultural constraints on the adoption of good menstrual hygiene practices. Mr Jooli stressed that some cultural beliefs enable the barriers of inequality in society, including the perpetuation of poor menstrual hygiene management that consigns women and girls to disadvantaged positions.

Ms Joy Ijuwo, Benue State Coordinator for NEWSAN, made a passionate appeal for the inclusion of sanitary pads and WASH kits for school girls as part of COVID-19 relief packages in Nigeria.

“All relevant authorities should give attention and priority to MHM issues. Everyone must be conscious of, and responsible for, their physical and environmental hygiene, especially at home, in school and the community,” she said.