When NK at the Pacelli’s got her first period, she was afraid she was dying. Terrified, she stuffed bits of cloth and cotton inside herself to try to stem the bleeding.
Too frightened to tell her parents what was happening, she kept quiet. She spent her school day terrified blood would leak out, exposing her to ridicule from her classmates.
“At first I was so scared, I didn’t know what it was, I thought I had hurt myself,” explains NK over the Hour of Hygiene at the Pacelli School of Blind, her school and one of Nigeria’s largest school of the Visually Impaired. The hour of hygiene has been organized by non-profit Giving Garage organisers of the Pad Man Africa, which provides gender equality & menstrual hygiene awareness and sanitary pad to girls like NK.
But Nk’s initial experience is common across Nigeria, and the rest of the continent. As many as one in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa are missing school during menstruation
One of the biggest problems girls who grow up in poverty face is the lack of proper and hygienic solutions when they have their period. If their parents don’t have money to buy pads they end up using anything at hand like cloth, leaves, tissue, pieces of mattresses or even have transactional sex for pads. These practices are dangerous to their health but also make many girls miss several days of school every month. Some drop out of school for good.
Today, little trace is left of that fear. As we want NK to join other girls in eastern Africa who uses a menstrual cup or Reuseable pads that she can wash regularly and use for up to ten years. “[Menstruation] happens to all girls, why would I be embarrassed?”
“Girls don’t talk about these issues, so I’m not sure if any other women face them, the real reasons PadMan Initiative is adopting the United Nations’ He For She Model to encourage men to play a role in soliciting for adequate funding and awareness for this cause and rebuff the idea of other girls thinking women could only become pregnant by having sex during menstruation.
The Kenyan government is considered a global leader on access to sanitary products. It repealed added tax on pads and tampons in 2004 to lower the price – a tax that still exists in the US – and since 2011, with the help of Zana Africa, the government has allocated money to distribute free pads to school girls.
The Pad Man Initiative is also designed to promote loudly and unashamedly the role of good Menstrual Hygiene Management in Schools as a trigger for better, stronger development of Schoolgirls. The convener, Chaste Inegbedion recently attended the Pan African Youth Conference at the UNEP HQ in Nairobi and hopes to collaborate with the Zana Africa team to reach school girls in Nigeria with the assistance of Mandy Sanghera, Green Pads, Hamzat Lawal, Sarah Makiki, UN Women (HeForShe) Kenya, UNICEF Kenya, MIPAD 100, Kenya Airways, Samsung Mobile and other public spirited individuals and brands who supported his delegation to Kenya.
About PadMan Initiative
Our proposal is unique in engaging communities on menstrual hygiene via PadMan, offering incentives to brand through Corporate Social Investment and Sponsorship, assigning value to low-value sanitation materials (E.G Soap, Toilet Rolls, etc.), and capturing these more efficiently (at point-of-use) using Pad Bank – A Marketplace for selling sanitary pads, earning commission and providing non -collateral funding for sanitary facilities. Our solution is innovative because it is self-sustaining, environmentally and socially responsible and profitable (at scale). We are creating a reverse supply chain for sanitary pads using already existing market players in a more efficient and effective way. Our model aligns incentives across the entire value chain from producing ‘party’ pads. We see ourselves as a market maker, using technology to overcome market failures. Our SMS-based proprietary points platform would revolutionized rural-Africa on Menstrual Hygiene, building a network of end users whose cell phones have become a store of value while stimulating repeat participation in our Menstrual Health Awareness Programme.