The stigma, Myth and taboo of menstruation is a human rights issue. The direct consequence of this is the infringement of the fundamental human rights of women and girls. It inflicts indignity and violates their rights to nondiscrimination, equality, bodily integrity, health, privacy and right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment.
In rural Nigeria menstruation is often associated with impurity, secrecy, shame, discrimination and stigmatization which further influences how the issue is handled at home. For example men and women may maintain separate quarters while a woman is menstruating, some women worry about how to dispose of their used pads due to fear that they may be vulnerable to witchcraft attacks.
Another problem is the restricted control many women and girls have over their mobility and behavior due to their “impurity” during menstruation. The misconceptions, myths and superstitions concerning menstrual blood and menstrual hygiene have potential harmful implications. Remarkable also, is the lack of awareness by parents concerning reproductive health, sexuality and related issues which is considered a “no-go” area. The level of knowledge and understanding of puberty, menstruation and reproductive health in these rural communities are very low. Consequently, in most parts of these communities, a girl who attains menarche is seen as mature and ready for marriage and thus married off early leading to child early forced marriage and its attendant consequences. More also girls in rural communities also have many challenges during periods leading to them staying at home for up to 3 – 5 days to save themselves from embarrassment while some become vulnerable to sexual harassment.
Poor menstrual hygiene management may also increase susceptibility to infection and possible infertility.
There is also the problem of mitigating the environmental impact of disposable options. According to a UNICEF report 2012, an average woman menstruates about 3,000 times in her lifetime from menarche to menopause and uses up to about 11,000 pads which is not bio degradable and environmentally friendly. The absence of proper waste management infrastructure makes the problem even more profound.
During our work in rural communities, we found that girls use leaves, mattress stuffing, newspapers, feathers, cornhusks, and rags, infact, anything they can find… but still miss up to 2 months of school every year. When girls cannot go to school and women cannot work, a society loses half of its socio-economic and political potentials. According to a UNICEF 2012 report, menstruation is one of the main reasons why girls miss days from school in Nigeria and other developing countries.
The grave lack of sustainable menstrual hygiene solutions and facilities push menstruating girls out of school and when they are left behind, eventually leads to school dropout and gender inequality which is an obstacle to SDG 5 – Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women.