For Zainab, menstrual hygiene management is good business
In north-east Nigeria, a schoolgirl and others have been empowered to become menstrual hygiene champions
13 years old Zainab Yakubu never knew she could be an entrepreneur at a young age. The junior secondary school girl who lives in Indabo community near Damagum, north-east Nigeria is however earning regular income from the sales of reusable but affordable menstrual pads.
Zainab’s small business journey started with a menstrual health management training organised by UNICEF for schoolgirls and women in Fune Local Government Area through the Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Prior to the training, Zainab who is a child affected by conflict struggled with basic necessities and used unhygienic methods to cater to her menstrual health.
I did not have adequate knowledge on menstrual health and used pieces of cloth for my monthly flow. It was not the most comfortable method because you can stain your cloth and become the source of jokes from other girls and boys,’’ said Zainab.
Many girls in developing countries are unable to practice good menstrual health with dignity in their schools and communities. The situation is even worse in emergencies like north-east Nigeria where conflict, displacement, poor household income and widespread poverty have pushed good menstrual health to the backstage.
Though, access to safe and dignified menstrual health management is the fundamental right of women and girls, disadvantaged adolescents like Zainab struggle. For these girls, poor menstrual hygiene management is at the root of low self-esteem, stress and school absenteeism. Over the course of the lives of adolescent girls, school absenteeism due to poor menstrual health management can also have serious economic and health implications for them.
For Zainab and other 44 women and adolescent schoolgirls who benefitted from the training in Indabo, the tutorial on the production of pads, using cheap but quality materials was especially useful.
Under the DGIS-funded Accelerated Water and Sanitation for All (ASWA II) project, schools and communities in Fune LGA were provided with functional boreholes, environmental health clubs and hygiene corners were also set up to compliment the menstrual health and sanitation drive in the community.
“I will never forget the training particularly because of the production component. Virtually all the girls and women in my community use pieces of clothes during their menstrual period. This is not convenient, can lead to skin irritations and it is not long before they get stained.
“With reusable sanitary pads made from cloths, they are reusable, environmentally friendly and have straps to hold them in place. I sell the absorbent pads at N50 (about 11 cents) per piece to women and girls in my community. The income is helping with my education. I use it buy snacks and food during lunch breaks,’’ said Zainab.