With at least 13 million children out of school in Nigeria presently and rising, with 60 percent of this number being girls, even when they are able to receive an education, there is still a huge challenge keeping young girls in school due to some factors
These factors include poverty, sexual and gender based violence, kidnappings, teenage pregnancy, family responsibilities and forced marriages and so on, make it difficult for young girls to focus on their education. Harmful traditional practices such as early marriages, female genital mutilation, girls trafficking, farming out children to family members to foster and so on, all contribute to creating a toxic environment for girls to grow up and be educated in.
In light of all these, the first lady of Ekiti state, Erelu Bisi Fayemi is focused on addressing these issues with her Keep Girls In School Campaign. According to her, one of the factors that keep young girls away from school is ‘period poverty’ or lack of capacity for menstrual hygiene management.
Lack of appropriate facilities such as gender segregated toilet facilities, adequate safe water supply in schools for washing hands and maintaining good hygiene, absence of sanitary menstrual materials and so on can and does prevent girls from safe hygienic management of their periods.
These may result in absenteeism, reduced levels of concentration in class and low participation in school activities like sports and other extra-curricular activities. The campaign therefore launched a Pad Bank on Menstrual Hygiene Day to enable vulnerable girls in the state have access to reusable sanitary protection, a sustainable way of menstrual hygiene management.
According to the first lady, the bank’s objectives include having a steady supply of menstrual hygiene products, helping young girls who are unable to afford sanitary materials and ensure that young girls don’t stay away from school because of their monthly cycle.
Others include, promoting good menstrual hygiene amongst young girls, providing training in the use of menstrual hygiene products and providing opportunities for young local entrepreneurs to learn how to produce reusable and safe sanitary products.
She added that a box of six reusable pads that can last for a year costs N2, 500 and their target is 3000 girls yearly in the state. Calling for support to enable them reach and surpass this goal, she said donations in cash or kind would enable them keep a steady supply of these reusable pads for regular distribution to young girls that need them the most.