20 years old Anita John lost her mother during the Boko Haram insurgency that ravaged her community, Michika in Adamawa state. Since then, she has been living with her grandparents and life has not been easy. While she adorns her wrapper on most days of the month, she sometimes converts them to sanitary towels during her menstrual period. This happens when Anita could not get money from her guardians to buy menstrual pads.

“I always find it difficult to handle my period whenever I don’t have money. Sometimes my grandparents will ask me to collect pads on credit and other times there will be nothing to use. That is when I use my wrapper as a sanitary towel. Even with that, I hardly go out during that period because I wasn’t sure if it will stop the blood from staining my dress. I would rather be home during that time than being embarrassed by a dress stained with blood,’’ Anita said.

Anita is one of many young women and girls in Nigeria, struggling with menstrual hygiene management due to period poverty, which occurs when there is a lack of, or inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products, including sanitary pads. This sometimes leads them to use unhygienic products during periods, due to poverty.

The Nigerian Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Talen in June 2021 said over 37 million women and girls of reproductive age, lack access to menstrual hygiene products due to a lack of funds.

After a challenging period of managing her menstrual health, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) is supporting Anita and other vulnerable girls and women to regain their dignity by learning how to make reusable sanitary pads.

A Mission 21-funded project with support from EYN ZME, EYN Women Ministry, and Nakowa Legacy Empowerment Foundation has trained over 50 women from different communities in Adamawa and Borno on making reusable menstrual sanitary pads at a workshop held in Yola.

The three days intensive training was aimed at promoting menstrual hygiene management education and empowerment to girls and women in underserved communities.

After graduating from the training, visibly elated Anita said she has gotten her dignity and freedom back.

“With this knowledge, I wouldn’t have to worry when I see my period because now I can make the reusable pad and wouldn’t have to spend money to buy them. I’ve learned how to package the pads and sell them to other people. This will also bring money to me and I can support my grandparents who have been taking care of me all this while’’ Anita said.

Dr. Yakubu Joseph, the Nigerian Country Director for Mission 21 who was at the workshop said the training was a result of a need assessment conducted at an IDPs camp in Maiduguri where women voiced their worry over menstrual hygiene and inability to access sanitary pads due to poverty.

“Mission 21 and EYN have been working together supporting IDPs and other people affected by the violent conflict in the northeast. Based on the need assessment conducted, we thought it will be very important to train women on the production of reusable menstrual sanitary pads to be accompanied by menstrual hygiene education so that they can produce these menstrual pads that are based on locally sourced materials that are affordable. It is also a means of livelihood for some who may want to make and sell it,’’ He said.

Dr. Joseph added that the participants are people from rural communities affected by conflict and must also be within the reproductive age.

The lead facilitator, Bridget Dakyes, founder of Women and Girl-Child Rescue and Development Initiative, a Non-Governmental Organization based in Jos, the Plateau state capital said the three days training was fruitful because of the cooperation and enthusiasm shown by the participants in learning how to make the reusable pads. “This project is holistic and it meets the diverse needs of the women. It has brought women from different religious and cultural backgrounds as part of the peace-building component of the project. We see sustainability in this because they are also thought to step down the knowledge acquired here to other women at the grassroots. There is also the business aspect of it where we taught women how to make bags and package the sanitary pads for sale. We are hopeful that this training will be a life-changing experience for these women and girls, ’’ she said.

The women were given starter kits which includes wrappers, Towels, pants, buckets, and detergents to help them wash and ensure that their reusable menstrual sanitary pads are kept in good hygiene.

With the accessibility of reusable sanitary pads and increased awareness about menstrual hygiene, women and girls can take action and contribute to their communities, whether or not they are on their period.