we can't thrive in Ignorance, Educate Us about Menstrual Health

As a young girl of 12years in Junior Secondary School 1, enjoying the beauty of life while living it as it comes. Education was a form of adventure for me because I loved the idea of going to school, meeting new friends and learning new things, most especially things that interests me like physical health education, home economics and cultural studies. Although I realized a girl was different from a boy child as we were taught in elementary school but emphasis was not made on the physiological and reproductive changes, therefore, I had never heard anything about menstruation or sexual reproductive health until I was 12 when I first saw my period. It was on a fateful day after closing from school, I got home to take off my underwear when I saw blood on my pant. what is this? I screamed out loud. my mum wasn't around, but her younger sister was in the kitchen cooking. O immediately ran to meet her, showed her and explained that I just saw blood on my pant, I was so nervous and shocked while emphasizing that I was not injured, I was not even sure about not being injured because, I didn't know where the bleeding came from. She then said in my dialect " I'm now a woman" .

On hearing that word, I was confused the more, and I asked her what it meant. She said I cannot understand now but I would understand later. then different questions came running through my mind like... what's happening to me, how have I changed, what changed in me, am I pregnant lol or did I suddenly became an adult like my mum. I wish I could my Aunt could explain and give me more information about it and what to expect but I guess she wasn't well informed herself about it and the only thing she could do was to give me something to put on my pant so I can wear. That aroused more questions and I was so disturbed and needed to get more answers but unfortunately my mum travelled and I couldn't speak to anyone about it to provide answers. I had to attend a program that evening, I wasn't comfortable with what was in my pant, I told her and she said I will get used to it with time, Aaaaah how na, what is happening to me, I checked myself over and over in a toilet throughout the program. I had never been more conscious about my body before like I was that day. it was a very awkward situation and I felt really embarrassed.

Many girls are being faced with similar situation back then and now, I have heard about young adolescent girls starting menstruating without adequate information and awareness about Menstrual Health. Girls should not feel awkward when they inquire about what's happening to them, its a normal part of life after all. I look forward to the day when menstruation conversation is normalized with access to clean water, abundant safe spaces and avoidable menstrual products.

If I had been informed and educated about menstruation before having my first period, I am very sure I would not be as embarrassed as I was, i would even be expectant because I would have normalized it as it is supposed to be, its a normal part of a woman life starting from puberty down to menopause, its such a long time. if only i had been exposed to more information about female hygiene and menstrual health, i would have prepared for it and that would have reduced the ignorance i had on my first period. Different girls who have carelessly soiled themselves in schools out of ignorance of a better way to handle their menstrual cycles, had been a subject of ridicule, mockeries, gossips and even isolation.

Our collective responsibility is to make sure that young girls have the right information about their bodies and safe spaces to address their concern before their first period. Creating awareness on menstrual hygiene and the things to expect on first periods makes girls feel confident about that bodies, it makes them feel at ease and normal just like every other person not awkward and embarrassed. That experience made me realize how much girls' needs to know about their periods, their bodies and their health. On this course, I have committed myself to reaching out to as many young girls' within and also outside my community if privileged, to educate them about Menstrual hygiene. i would be engaging adolescent on how to manage their menstruation to have a healthy lifestyle ad protect their bodies from infectious and contagious disease which may arise from unhealthy menstrual practices. so far, We have been able to reach more than 200 adolescent girls in different communities and I am inspired by their testimonies of how glad they are being able to converse about their bodies and menstrual health breaking the myth around menstruation.

Talking about menstruation has always been a taboo in many communities in Nigeria. Many adult women don't find it easy to share education about menstruation with their girl children because it has been traditionally classified as a sacred subject. testimonies abound of many girls' who started their menstruation at the age of 9-12 hid such experiences from their parent, by getting turning to the wrong people for advise and using dirty pieces of cloth as pads due to the low level of awareness on the management of menstrual hygiene.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a able to go out their and impact many young girls which has led to eliminating the age-long taboos' by taking actions in the communities to help the next generation of girls' to have required positive education about menstrual hygiene. However, i believe we can achieve more if the stakeholders acts as a strong support system for young girls so they can begin to see their menstrual period as their pride.

Our Voices Rising
Future of Security Is Women
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