iwd2024 -SPOTLIGHTING Change Makers

1. What is the name of your pad drive? Can you tell us about your personal journey 

There’s no name for the Pad Drive in itself; it started as a project; I was the state coordinator for Health Leads Initiative, a non-governmental organization in Bayelsa State, where we worked towards satisfying different community needs, and the Pad Drive happened to be one of those needs. Over the years, I have volunteered and worked on a number of women or girl-child-centered projects. I have looked at the needs of women and girls and how my privilege allows me to step in. I think that in itself summarizes my personal journey. As for my motivations, having experienced period poverty myself and seen girls and women like me struggle with periods is all the motivation I needed.

2. What is period poverty, and how does it affect women?
Period poverty simply put, is the lack of access to menstrual health, sanitary products, menstrual health education, and all necessary information and materials or facilities needed to deal with periods; the inaccessibility of any or all of those things is period poverty. It affects women a great deal, and It has a significant impact on women. It impacts nearly every group of women (but I can’t say that all women are affected at the same level.)

I believe that every class of woman or young girl you speak with has a unique experience with menstruation, and that uniqueness has drawbacks. This is the point when you are affected by period poverty. Particularly when it comes to education, some are unaware that what they are going through is indeed poverty and that their lack of access to knowledge makes their life and period experiences more challenging. Many times, when menstruation occurs alongside its numerous symptoms like PMDD, nausea, moods, the inexplainable sensitivity before it, the mild to extreme physical breakdown in your health, and the list goes on, people are unaware of what is happening to their bodies. However, you hear someone else remark or share their personal experiences, such as, “Oh, I experienced that too during my period.” And then you realize, “Oh wait, this is tied to my period?” And I assure you that awareness alone helps you manage yourself better during your periods. So whether we’re talking about period education or the access to sanitary materials, period poverty affects all women at different levels.

3. What are some challenges you have faced in this fight? And how can we, as people, support you? 

The majority of the challenges I have encountered would be funding, yes. Furthermore, it’s not always easy to get access to these girls, even in cases where we already have period care supplies like pads. For instance, when we started the period drive, girls in rural areas in secondary schools were our target groups.

So, every time we approached a school, it was a struggle. Mostly it was challenging trying to get the principal’s consent, this part was never easy. Some schools will tell you that the principal has to talk to the parents to determine if their children can get menstrual health education and materials from you. Then, some schools tell you, no, they can’t let you talk to children under their care; they don’t want children to have too much information. They ask questions like, what do you want to tell them? Where did you get the sanitary materials from? What are inside the pads? Etc.  Perhaps it’s religion or simply how the Nigerian society is set up, how Nigerians just either like to judge people or make life unnecessarily hard and complicated, but it’s so difficult even to do charity in Nigeria.

Speaking of judging, I encounter some ridiculous judgments of my person or how I present regarding what I wear. Sometimes my hair is colored, or I have piercings, and people are just looking at me first like, what are you? How could you possibly have anything impactful to say? They would view me that way first, and their drawbacks come as a result of some of those biases against how I look, but once we were able to bypass this, when we could get past this, these bridges, it’s always a fun experience. I don’t think there are so many challenges after that. 

4. What does inclusivity mean to you in the fight against period poverty? 

To me, being inclusive entails serving every one of these individuals. It involves looking beyond the most visible groups of people to ensure that every girl, woman, and menstruating person gets access to, is taken into consideration for, or is put on the table when these strategies to end period poverty are being developed. When drafting projects for Menstrual Health Drives, keep in mind every woman, people in smaller villages, people or women in fishing camps, and just about anywhere else you can think of where there’s a group of women or young girls that you know will have trouble accessing or affording period care. That is, in my opinion, what inclusion entails.

5. What does success mean to you in the fight against period poverty

Success would mean sitting back and realizing that no girl out there has to worry about dealing with periods every other month; that would be a success. That no girl, no woman, no person who mensurates has to manage their periods with little or no sanitary materials or inadequate education. And that’s possible If we as a society set up sustainable methods to handle period poverty, that would be a success to me that everyone has got their period in check. Like, I have pads, check. I have tampons, check. I know that this is my body reacting because of periods, and I know how to deal with it. I know what to use to deal with it, check. Just check for everyone. Yeah, that would mean success. That’s success to me.

Thank you so much for your time. 

Happy International Women’s Day