How Hauwa got her ‘freedom’ back

After a challenging period of managing her menstrual health, UNICEF is supporting Hauwa and other vulnerable girls in Nigeria to regain their dignity.

Folashade Adebayo, Communication Officer, UNICEF Nigeria
A girl holding a handmade pad
28 May 2022

16 years old Hauwa Bukar of Muna IDP Camp in Maiduguri, north-east Nigeria used her headscarves for multiple purposes. While they adorn her head on most days of the month, she converted them to sanitary towels during her menstrual period.

“Even with my scarves, I still had to stop going to school and stay at home throughout my menstrual period. The scarves get soaked quickly and got me stained. I would rather be home during that time than be embarrassed by a dress stained with blood,’’ said Hauwa.

Displaced by armed conflict from Sandia, a remote community in Borno State, enrolling in school came with stiff challenges for Hauwa.

“There was no single school in Sandia. Not one. Children had to travel to the next community to attend the school and that was a tall task for my parents. I did not enroll in school until we fled to Maiduguri to escape armed conflict. I was placed in Primary 2 and now I am in Primary 5,’’ said Hauwa.

A girl smiling

Staying out of school during her menstrual period was a setback for Hauwa, who aspires to be a medical doctor. But that was before UNICEF, with support from the United Nations Central Emergency Fund, (CERF) supported conflict-affected girls in north-east Nigeria with dignity kits.

With sundry items such as a dozen reusable pads, detergent, clothesline, pegs, underwear, toothpaste, disposable pads, kettle, bucket, jerry can and other materials, the dignity kits are providing adolescent girls in north-east Nigeria with confidence to achieve their dreams.

“Before I was given the reusable pads and the dignity kit, I always felt tense during my menstrual period. But when I got the pads and was taught how to use it, I felt more comfortable and empowered. If it is possible, I want every girl child to have it,’’ said Hauwa.

According to Mamita Bora Thakkar, UNICEF WASH Manager in Maiduguri, good menstrual health management for girls and women is a human right and gender equality tool. Aside from helping to keep adolescent girls in school, Thakkar says it is also about dignity and healthy living for girls and women.

A woman with a microphone
Mamita Bora Thakkar, UNICEF WASH Manager

“Menstrual health management education must be available to girls. There must also be availability of adequate numbers of safe, clean, private water and sanitation facilities, bathing and laundering spaces for girls and women to clean themselves.

“Girls must have access to menstrual products as well as effective disposal options and waste management systems for the hygienic handling of menstrual waste. UNICEF is working with partners to ensure that special efforts to reach and co-design solutions with girls with disabilities, girls from minority groups and those in conflict situations,’’ said Bora Thakkar.