Menstruation, also known as a period or monthly, is the regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue (known as menses) from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina.
The first period usually begins between 12 and 15 years of age, a period known as menarche.
However, periods may occasionally start as early as eight years and still be considered normal.
UNICEF describes menstrual hygiene management, as the process where women and adolescent girls use clean menstrual hygiene management (MHM) materials to absorb or collect blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period.
The adolescent girls are expected to use soap and water for washing their bodies as required and have access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management material.
A 2016 UN report estimates that one in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa, skips school because of her menstrual cycle.
Also, a 2015 survey titled: “An Assessment of Menstrual Hygiene Management in Secondary Schools,’’ conducted by UNICEF, showed that schoolgirls in Nigeria face many challenges when they are on their period.
These challenges affect the ability of schoolgirls, across religion and ethnicity, to manage their period with dignity; and also cause them to skip school during their period because concentration becomes difficult.
A survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Narayi and Bayan Dutse communities of Kaduna State, showed that the girls face challenges during their menstruation periods.
Christiana Ambi, a young girl of Narayi community said she first experienced menstruation at the age of 12 and thought she was bedwetting because everywhere was wet.
“When I noticed it was blood, I kept quiet and didn’t tell anyone, I went and took my bath and washed my pants and changed cloth, but my elder sister noticed what was happening; she called me and taught me how to use sanitary pads,” she said.
Another young girl from Narayi community, Janet Lot, said she also started menstruation at the age of 12.
She said that she noticed blood stains on her skirt while playing outside with friends and rushed home so that her friends would not notice it, adding that she tried to hide it from her mother, but it was late.
“My mother asked me to turn, and she told me that it was menstruation; she advised me not to play or sleep with boys or else I would be pregnant,” she said.
Magdalene Yohanna from Bayan Dutse said her first experience was not funny, because she started her period at the age of 14 with little or no knowledge about how to manage it.
She said her mother had not spoken to her about menstruation before; as such she was confused and didn’t know what to do, a situation which made her confide in her mother.
“She then apologised for not telling me earlier and told me to inform her whenever I experience something strange.
“The following month I noticed it, and I told her, she bought me a pad, she told me how to use it, and said if it finishes, I can use a rag,” she said.
Patience Auta, a teenager from Bayan Dutse community said she started menstruating while she was in primary school.
She said that it started with stomach pain and the urge to visit the toilet, adding that she told her mother immediately after school.
Auta said that her mother taught her how to use a sanitary pad.
” She said I should stay away from boys; I started using the sanitary pad, but was not comfortable with it and later resorted to using clean rags which I always wash, dry under the sun and iron after use, “she said.
Most of the girls interviewed, said they had little or no knowledge about menstruation or how to manage it before their first menstrual flow.
Some community leaders and parents attributed to lack of proper menstrual hygiene among young girls to poverty and lack of good communication between parents and their wards.
Mr David Audu, the village head of Madami, Bayan Dutse, said parents of the olden days knew nothing about sanitary pads, adding that they used rags to manage menstruation.
He said that since we are now in a modern world, it was important for parents to provide their daughters with sanitary pads.
Pastor Bonnet Yohanna, said that some parents are not close to their daughters, adding that unfriendly parents would not know the needs of their children.
He called on parents, especially fathers to be close to their daughters and provide them with all the necessary support they need so that they won’t go and seek assistance from strangers who might take advantage of them.
To tackle the menstrual hygiene management challenge among young girls, Mercy Corps Nigeria, with support from the DFID, initiated the Girls Education Challenge (GEC) Fund. The Fund is implementing the Educating Nigerian Girls In New Enterprises (ENGINE) programme to address barriers to girls’ education and gender inequalities.
The programme is focusing on 18,000 marginalised girls in Kano, Kaduna and Lagos states.
Diana Agabi, Senior Project Officer, Team Leader ENGINE ll Kaduna, stated that the programme had trained teachers in 36 schools, located in six local government areas of Kaduna State on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).
“We engaged 41 communities using interaction and training and taught girls how to produce reusable sanitary pads; we also had video clips on MHM and menstrual cycle during lesson sessions for girls.”
“The weekly learning sessions by the ENGINE II programme provides girls with literacy, numeracy, financial education and life skills, which includes training on appropriate menstrual hygiene management,” she said.
Some of the girls who benefitted from the programme said they had learnt a lot about menstruation and how to keep themselves clean, adding that they would pass the lessons learnt to their younger siblings and children in their localities.
Jacqueline Bonnet, one of the beneficiaries of the ENGINE ll programme, said she had learnt a lot from ENGINE because they were taught how to take care of themselves during menstruation.
“We were told not to stay with one pad for a long period, we should not let it get too soaked before changing, and they told us about the side effects of using tissue paper because it has small particles that affect us internally,” she said.
Victory Bonnet, another beneficiary, said the programme had taught her to take bath regularly and change the rag or wrapper they had used, wash and dry it under the sun.
She added that she had learnt how to make a reusable pad in case she had no money to buy a pad.
Dr Amina Bello, of Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, said it was important for women to practice personal hygiene during menstruation, adding that failure to do so might result in pelvic inflammatory disease.
“It is advisable for menstruating women to bath at least twice a day, wash their underwear and change their clothing daily,” she said.