To commemorate the 2024 World Menstrual Hygiene Day, the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, through its Media in Gender Project, implemented a series of activities, including storytelling, advocacy, and social media engagement, to raise awareness of the importance of menstrual health hygiene and address the challenges related to menstrual health and equity in Nigeria.

According to UNICEF, almost 83 million Nigerians live below the poverty line, and parents would rather use their money for food and sustenance than sanitary products for their children. In 2021, the then minister of women’s affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, said over 37 million Nigerian women of menstruating age do not have access to sanitary pads due to financial constraints. The average woman menstruates from age 13 until age 51, about once a month, with each period lasting three to seven days. The prices of sanitary pads in Nigeria have moved from ₦350-₦400 in 2019 to ₦700-₦950 in 2021.

Despite progress in recent years, many women and girls still face challenges related to access to menstrual products, affordability issues, and societal stigmatization. In 2022, UNFPA supported Lagos State in conducting a state-wide assessment on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) across its secondary schools. The majority, around 57% of the girls, had poor knowledge about menstrual hygiene, and over 77% reported re-using their menstrual materials (these are not reusable pads).

The Menstrual Hygiene Project aimed to drive positive change and contribute to the realization of menstrual health and hygiene for women and girls in Nigeria and beyond. As part of the activities, the CJID embarked on an advocacy visit and capacity-building workshop for St. Augustine Catholic Schools. This initiative empowered 30 selected female students with the knowledge and skills to produce reusable pads from start to finish.

The training session, facilitated by a public health nurse, Oluwafisayomi Olowu, enlightened the students on the awareness of menstrual health issues in the female gender and also sought to combat societal myths and misconceptions surrounding menstruation through advocacy. She also explained the usefulness of the reusable pads to the students. The students had questions that were diligently answered by Oluwafisayomi before moving on to the practical session, where the students were taught how to make reusable pads. The aim of the training for the 30 female students was to teach them how to make reusable pads, given that the current economic situation makes it difficult to sustain the use of disposable pads. Additionally, they were encouraged to pass on the knowledge they had acquired to other girls in their schools and neighbourhoods.

CJID commissioned selected journalists to conduct in-depth investigations, fact-checks and data stories on various aspects of menstrual hygiene thereby shedding light on the challenges faced by women and girls. This piece on Menstrual Disorders: Inside the world of pains, pangs of Nigerian women examines how lack of knowledge about menstrual disorders and limited access to quality healthcare worsen the experience for many women. Read the story here.

Another piece on the rising cost of sanitary pads and how it impedes menstrual hygiene among Nigerian women documented the plights of women of reproductive age as Nigeria’s rising inflation affects access to menstrual products. You can find the story here.

Besides storytelling, the project designed and conducted an opinion poll on the need to provide and subsidise menstrual products. The poll used electronic methodology to gather responses. Responses to the opinion poll questions: Should public toilets offer free menstrual products in public places? YES, NO. Should the government subsidize the price of menstrual products? YES, NO were then visualized and disseminated across social media. The project also conducted fact checks, debunking myths and providing accurate information about menstruation and menstrual health-related information, and published them to dispel misinformation.