It is a fact that menstruation is an integral part of a girl’s life. Yet, it is an ordeal or torment for over millions of girls that lack access to basic sanitation materials during their periods.
Though a very fundamental aspect of girls’ life, as suffered a very huge neglect over the years in many parts of Nigeria. According to some research, hundreds of thousands of girls dropout of school every year, because of period poverty.
Bolu Olorunfemi and other campaigners are working to keep these girls in school and to minimise the impact of period poverty on women in Nigeria.
Haba Naija correspondent Demola Ojo had a conversation with Bolu about her work.
Demola Ojo: Hello Bolu, thanks for finding time to talk to me. Tell me, how did you get into advocating for period poverty?
Bolu Olorunfemi: It all started some years back during my NYSC service year,when i saw a paper fully stained with blood falling on a girl’s body. I was so scared and curious about what might likely be the cause of the blood stained paper. My curiosity led me to further question the girl who told me she was on her period. I felt so bad, I tried to imagine what could lead a girl to using a paper instead of a menstrual pad and i realized that she was suffering from menstrual poverty.
This is the fundamental factor that led me to be a Zero poverty Advocate. Being a volunteer for HopeSpring and with the help of Temi Odurinde, we began to organize menstrual hygiene workshops by teaching girls how to manage their period hygienically.
Demola Ojo: So what brought the idea of SuS pad ?
Bolu Olorunfemi: initially, we were glued to the idea of donating and giving disposable menstrual pads to girls, but we realised that such an idea still takes our advocacy for a Zero period poverty to the status Quo. Hence, Hope Spring water came up with the idea of a reusable menstrual pad. Instead of gifting girls with a disposable menstrual pad, we can bring up machinery and equipment to teach the girls how to make their own reusable menstrual pads the sewing skills i have made it much easier.
The basic idea is that a reusable menstrual pad is more sustainable. It can be used for more than two years or more when properly maintained.
Demola ojo: That sounds like a very good idea. How can you weigh the success of the project so far?
Bolu Olorunfunmi: I would say we have recorded a very huge and inspiring success so far. Looking at the level of feedback from the girls and women we teach in different communities and schools. We do not only teach the girls how to make their own reusable menstrual pads,we teach them how to maintain the pad and also gift them with materials to make more and teach more people within their families and communities.
Also the sort of joy and happiness expressed by girls in many of our workshops is also a good testimony to weigh our success.They are glad and grateful for the lessons and workshops.
In one of our workshops, a lady explained her ordeal before the SuS pads workshop. According to her, during periods, she feels extremely bad and had to stay at home to avoid body shaming because she couldn’t afford a disposable pad. After the SuS pads project which we had in her school, she told us she can make her own pads and teach many girls in her community that cannot afford a menstrual pad.
Demola Ojo: So far, since the inception of the SuS pads project, how many girls have you and the team impacted so far ?
Bolu Olorunfemi : We have trained more than 30 girls, made more than 80 reusable menstrual pads, and visited more than 4 schools. We intend to expand our campaign more in 2020. If you closely observe the trends of our campaign you will see that we started the campaign late last year and we covered so much. This year’s project and campaigns will be so massive.
We plan to reach more schools, produce more pads and impact more girls.
Demola Ojo: That’s a very remarkable achievement. Where do you see the SuS pads project in one year?
Bolu Olorunfemi: I see SuS pads in the fore-front of the war against period poverty not only in Nigeria, not only in Africa, but in the entire world. I see SuS pads impacting more lives and reducing girls absenteeism from school.
Demola Ojo: What have been the challenges so far ?
Bolu Olorunfemi: our challenges so far have been fund. Getting required funding for our projects has been a very huge challenge.
Demola Ojo: what would you like to tell your listeners out there ?
Bolu Olorunfemi: Period poverty is real! many girls have committed suicide due to menstrual poverty. Lets us all come together as one to eradicate this cankerworm that has eaten deep into the lives of millions of girls in Africa and the entire world at large.
Demola Ojo: Thank you so much for your time Ms Bolu. We hope to see you again.
Bolu Olorunfemi: Thank you too.