Our Big Girls Let it Flow intervention is aimed at building capacity of girls and young women in producing reusable sanitary towels, and sensitization on menstrual hygiene management in schools. Menstrual hygiene management is described as the process whereby “women and adolescent girls use a clean menstrual hygiene management (MHM) material to absorb or collect blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period, using soap and water for washing their bodies as required and having access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management material” (UNICEF, WHO 2014).
Schools are potentially important settings in relation to MHM. Lack of appropriate facilities such as gender segregated improved toilet facilities, adequate safe water supply in schools for washing hands and soiled clothes, facility for drying of clothes and absence of sanitary menstrual materials can prevent girls from safe hygienic management of their menstruation. These may result to absenteeism, reduced level of concentration in class, low participation in outside school activities like sports and school clean-up. (Sommer and Sahin 2013).
There is a global evidence of lack of adequate guidance, facilities and materials for girls to manage their menstruation in school. These neglected public health, social and educational issues require prioritization, coordination and investment (Sommer,2016). In Nigeria, especially among schoolgirls and women, there is a ‘culture of silence’ and shame regarding issues of sexuality and menstruation that are attributed to cultural restrictions. These prevent sufficient information from reaching girls and women. (Onyegegbu, 2014). Studies in Nigeria by Aniebue (2009) reported that mothers do not educate their daughters about the onset of menstruation, its duration, or healthy practices. Girls often seek information from their peers, friends, or siblings who relay superstitions and incorrect information which leads to fear and anxiety among the girls. Aluko described the consequences attached to this biological phenomenon as unfair and unjust. (Aluko, 2014)
Multiple research findings to date in Nigeria have demonstrated varying perceptions, beliefs, knowledge, attitudes and practices related to MHM. There is the belief that menstruation is an unclean and secret issue which should not be discussed. In some communities/areas menstruating women do not cook for their husbands especially those who are traditionalists. They are not permitted to collect water from the public ponds especially traditional sources. They are not allowed to perform certain religious rites.(UNICEF, GHARF Report2008). Furthermore, research finding showed that girls’ capacity to manage their periods is affected by lack of access to affordable hygienic sanitary materials disposal options for used materials, adequate water supply, clean toilets, hand washing facilities and access to changing rooms. If these facilities are not always available in school, it exposes many girls to manage their periods with great discomfort and in unhygienic conditions. (Olukanni, 2013).