Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin made history as the first black woman to deliver an inaugural lecture at King’s College, London, recently.
Olonisakin, 53, made history at the college, which is almost 190-year in the history of the school, fourth oldest university in England. “Not before now has a black woman grown and risen through the ranks at King’s to become a professor and to give an inaugural lecture for the first time in its esteemed history,’ she told a packed auditorium at the university.
According to modern-ghana.com, the lecture is usually given by ‘newly-promoted or appointed professors to inform colleagues in the university and the general public, about their research career so far; and update colleagues on their current and future research directions’.
Born to Nigerian parents in South London, Prof Olonisakin spent her formative years in Nigeria where she obtained a BSc in political science at Obafemi Awolowo University in 1984. Returning to London, she received an MA in War Studies (1990) and a PhD also in War Studies (1996) from King’s College. At King’s she is currently Professor of Security, Leadership and Development at the African Leadership Centre (ALC) in the School of Global Affairs, and Vice-President/Vice-Principal (International).
She established and acted as the founding director of the ALC in 2010, which aims to build the next generation of African scholars and analysts generating cutting edge knowledge for conflict, security and development in Africa. For over 20 years, Prof Olonisakin researched issues at the intersection of security and development, positioning her work to serve as a bridge between academia, policy and practice. She has contributed to efforts to tackle the structural roots of armed conflict in developing countries, particularly in Africa.
In the last decade, Prof Olonisakin led multi-country research projects on reframing narratives of peace and state building in Africa and on leadership and peace building in Africa. Her current research is on ‘Future Peace and the role of the State in Africa’. Prof Olonisakin worked at the UN between 1999 and 2003 before returning to King’s. In January 2015, she was appointed by the then UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, as one of seven members of the Advisory Group of Experts on the Review of the UN Peace building Architecture.
She is currently a member of the UN Group of Experts for the Global Study of Youth, Peace and Security. This perhaps was why, in her inaugural lecture, Prof Olonisakin placed some emphasis on her time at the UN, pointing out that her ‘experience as a staff member of the United Nations transformed my worldview’.
“First, Africa’s footprint on the UN Security Council’s agenda was hugely disproportionate to the continent’s representation in the places where decisions about the destiny of Africans were being made,” she said.
“Second, the voice of young people was glaringly absent – notwithstanding my own privileged position – particularly African youth (most especially women), who were rarely found among the Junior Professional Officers, (JPOs) and interns.
“Again, power dynamics were at play such that only wealthier member states who provided voluntary contributions and other support to the relevant UN offices had Junior Professional Officers in the Secretariat,” Prof Olonisakin told her audience.
Born to Nigerian parents in South London, Prof Olonisakin spent her early years in Nigeria where she obtained a BSc in political science at Obafemi Awolowo University in 1984. She received an MA in War Studies (1990) in London.
At King’s she is currently Professor of Security, Leadership and Development at the African Leadership Centre (ALC) in the School of Global Affairs, and Vice-President/Vice-Principal (International).
She established and acted as the founding director of the ALC in 2010, which aims to build the next generation of African scholars and analysts generating cutting edge knowledge for conflict, security and development in Africa.
Study reveals many women feel they were ‘mistreated’ during childbirth
Inever realized how sacred the childbirth story was for moms until I had a story of my own. In the days after coming home from the hospital, I was so deeply affected by mine — not to mention, trying to level out from the hormonal zaps and panic attacks my body was processing — that in order to understand the pieces of the birth story, I had to do it outside of the house, in the day time, at a park.
I vividly remember sitting down with my mom on a bench a few days after we came home from the hospital — for the initial few days I had a hard time being around people in general — and unpacking the experiences with her. Namely, the nurses. Prior to delivering, moms told me that if you went to the hospital with treats for the nurses, they’d treat you especially well, so I went in with an assortment of Kiehl’s lotions and chocolates. But I can’t say it did much.
There was the first nurse during intake who was clumsy with me and not equipped to handle my panic attacks. I did not expect a labor and delivery nurse to also be a psychiatrist, but her dismissing my panic by telling me “you’ll be fine” was infuriating because that’s not how panic works.
There was the second nurse who looked bored during my active pushing. Granted, I ended up pushing for a long time, but she looked unenthused to be there. Then there was that moment two hours into pushing where I asked her to call my doctor because I was in tears and had no energy left, and instead, she left the room to find my OB-GYN and I vomited all over myself. There was the third nurse who rushed in when my husband pushed the call button because I was in active labor and covered in vomit, who spoke poorly of the second nurse who’d just left. “What is she doing leaving you in labor?” Then there was the overnight nurse who, after I finally delivered my daughter via vacuum extraction, twisted at my nipples to get my daughter to latch, nagging me with a “come on, mommy” every time she pressed my daughter into my breast. She squeezed my nipples to no end, with that nasal-y cheer: “Come on, mommy.” She sounded like a pissed-off coach who had nothing left in her bag of motivating tricks but her voice. And then there was the sh*t-talking nurse from earlier who came back in to replace my ice packs, looked at my vagina, and made an alarming gasp sound and said, “Ayeeee.” And then in the morning, there were two different nurses who came in, saw that the IV was still in my arm, questioned while it was still there, said they’d be back to take it out, and never did. There were more experiences like that with more nurses, and while nothing dangerous ever happened during my stay, I’ve never ever come close to saying I enjoyed my birth experience. My general feeling about how the nurses treated me was that my emotional needs weren’t met. And maybe that’s not what they do. Maybe if I wanted hand-holding I should’ve hired a doula. Or a therapist.
But this indifference about my birth story is why the second I saw this article on Huffington Post about a new study in which many women claim they were yelled at during birth, my reaction was to click and devour. According to a survey recently published in the journal Reproductive Health, 17 percent of the 2,000+ women surveyed said they’d been yelled at, ignored, or denied some kind of help, or they’d experienced a mix of those things while in the maternity ward. Of course, no one ever yelled at me, but I definitely felt ignored, especially the following day during my recovery. I had so much blood on the floor of my bathroom that they just stopped coming in to clean it up, so I used wee-wee pads and layered them on top of the blood drops so that I didn’t have to walk in it.
Huffington Post did a nice job of pointing out how subjective the Reproductive Health study is, and just how many contributing factors need to be considered: race, socio-economic class, location, religion, on and on — all of these things play a part in the complete birth experience and one’s access to medical care in general. My takeaway from this study certainly isn’t that nurses are mean, or that women shouldn’t deliver at hospitals, because for me, I still believe the hospital was the best choice for what I wanted. And I would still say I was completely taken care of from a medical standpoint. The importance of this study, however, lies in the fact that the physical pain of delivery is also only part of the piece of the birth story. It doesn’t end when the baby is placed on our chests for skin-to-skin. Our birth story includes the after care. The way the nurses treat us, care for us, and, in the case of my naive, wishful thinking, perhaps even coddle us a little bit.
‘Girls Not Brides’ appoints new CEO to lead global fight against child marriage
Girls Not Brides: An international global partnership on ‘End Child Marriage today’, has announced the appointment of its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell as announced will join the secretariat in London by September 2019 following the departure of the non-governmental organisation former Executive Director, Lakshmi Sundaram earlier this year. As a champion of gender equality, womens’ and girls’ rights, Dr. Mwangi-Powell has a wealth of experience in the development sector, in movement building, and in strategic and organisational leadership. Dr. Mwangi-Powell joins the organisation from Nairobi, Kenya, where she is currently the Global Director for The Girl Generation (TGG), a DFID-funded project to end female genital mutilation (FGM) led by Options Consultancy Services.
Prior to her role with TGG, Dr. Mwangi-Powell held several leadership positions including founding Executive Director of the African Palliative Care Association, a membership-based organisation working to end pain and suffering for people with life-limiting illnesses across Africa. According to her biography,she has a strong public health background, with specialist knowledge in sexual reproductive health, palliative care, HIV and AIDS, advocacy, human rights, and gender equality. With her previous advocacy, financing and palliative care work with the Open Society Foundations in New York, Dr. Mwangi-Powell has a firm grounding in international foray in addition to her regional expertise.
Mabel van Oranje, Chair of the Board of Trustees at Girls Not Brides, said: “Faith Mwangi-Powell has a lengthy and impressive track record of building civil society alliances around complex issues like palliative care and FGM. I am excited that our global partnership will benefit from her strategic leadership and advocacy skills. I look forward to Faith strengthening the work of our member organisations and our secretariat, as well as our collaborative efforts with governments, UN organisations, media and local change-makers, as we accelerate our efforts to end child marriage.”
Dr. Mwangi-Powell commented: “I’m thrilled to be joining the Girls Not Brides family as the new CEO. Girls Not Brides is an organisation I not only respect but also greatly admire, and I share members’ conviction that every girl has the right to lead the life she chooses. I’m keen to bring my passion and experience of working at a regional, pan-African and global level to bear as we support the diverse needs of the growing Girls Not Brides membership.
“I have seen just how harmful gender-discriminatory practices like child marriage can be for girls, their communities and nations through my work on FGM,” she continued. “I’m passionate about creating real and lasting change in girls’ lives, particularly those who are most vulnerable and at risk; joining the Girls Not Brides team means I can continue that mission.”
Over 650 million women alive today were married as children. Child marriage violates girls’ rights to health, education and opportunity and exposes them to violence throughout their lives. Evidence shows that ending child marriage will catalyse global efforts to improve health, education and address poverty. Civil society organisations play a critical part in ending child marriage, especially those working at the grassroots level with girls, their families and their communities. Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 1,200 civil society organisations from over 100 countries committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential.
Dr. Rachel Yates will continue to head up the organisation as Interim Executive Director until the autumn.
Speak up on rape… Akeredolu challenges women
Nigeria ranks the 8th worst country in the world on child abuse, sexual assault. Wife of the Ondo State Governor, Mrs. Betty Anyawun-Akeredolu has advised victims of rape in the country to speak up in order to enable the law enforcement agencies to prosecute the offenders.
Mrs. Akeredolu in a statement titled “Broken voices: A call to Action to end Rape in Nigeria” said the refusal of rape victims made it difficult to prosecute offenders and make the crime to continue unabated.
Pointedly, Mrs. Akeredolu said, “Even with the best legal framework in place to put offenders behind bars forever, it is still ineffective if victims do not speak up, especially those who can.”
She, however, commended Mrs. Busola Dakolo for speaking up on the rape against her despite what was at stake and how it may affect the flourishing musical career of her husband.
Mrs. Akeredolu said the menace of rape has eaten deep into the fabrics of our society as Nigeria now ranks the eighth worst country in the world when it comes to child abuse including sexual assault.
Her words “According to the #MeToo and #TimesUp report, Nigeria is the ninth most dangerous country in the world for women. These shocking statistics confirm the innumerable number of cases of sexual violence reported in many corners throughout the country. “As alarming and shocking as the problem may seem, perpetrators have grown from being first-time offenders to serial rapists. They present themselves in various forms-father, uncle, brother, cousin, neighbour, lurking in their cocoons waiting for the next prey.
On the celebrated case of the rape allegation between Busola Dakolo and Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of COZA Church, Mrs. Akeredolu said “we can all agree, without any complex analytical skills, that the victim in question broke the ice by speaking up. Such courage and bravery! The fear and shame attached to speaking up and coming out to report cases of sexual abuse are undoubtedly the banes of finding a perfect solution to the problem.
“Her act of bravery has raised a lot of awareness on the several faces offenders may wear and has indeed given millions of other victims the courage to speak up. In less than 24 hours of releasing her story, social media went buzzing with many other stories previously untold unveiling themselves one at a time.
“More victims came up with their cases and boldly spoke about ways of avoiding rape without fear of public victimization or shame. This is exactly what movements like #MeToo and unbroken.ng have tried to advocate for, in a bid to curb the age-long menace.
“While there are several other ways of preventing sexual violence in our society, including effective legal framework to prosecute all offenders, strengthening community security, increased awareness among women and girls, public enlightenment on the Nigerian Criminal Code as it affects sexual violence, however, the ability to speak up when it happens remains the first and most vital step to solving the problem.
“There are many advantages to speaking up. According to Nwafor (2019), sexual violence victims should not only report cases but must also present early so that adequate evidence can be collected. That voice, however, broken, must not go mute because it can be made to sing again.
“Every woman, girl or boy who has been a victim of sexual violence must speak up. Speaking up is the first phase of recovering from the trauma. It can also prevent other associated health issues such as infectious diseases including HIV, teenage pregnancy, depression and mental illness, suicide and many more.”
Mrs. Akeredolu added that everyone must join hands to end sexual violence in Nigeria and support victims who speak up and end all forms of victimization.
Be innovative to be relevant, activists challenge womenfolk
In order to become politically relevant in the nation’s polity and in the scheme of things, a University lecturer, Prof Helen Olayinka Ogunsuyi and a Woman right advocate, Chief Olamide Falana have challenged womenfolk to be innovative.
Ogunsuyi and Falana who spoke at this years’ celebration of International Women’s Day Conference held in Akure, the Ondo State capital said women cannot continue to do the same thing traditional things expected of women and expect different results in the society.
Speaking on the theme: ‘Balance for Better’’ and facilitated by a Non-Government Organization (NGO) Doze Needy Education Foundation in collaboration with Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), they advised the women to leave the traditional role given to women and challenge the men for the top jobs in the country.
Ogunsuyi, a lecturer at Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) in her lecture said women must wake up and begin to bring development into all strata of the economy. She said every woman is innovative as she has an inherent strength to multitask.
Her words “This lecture was put together to challenge our thinking capacity towards exploiting our innovative mindset gainfully in order to become a part of those that make decision and policies that drive our nation, Nigeria.
“It is high time for women to wake up to the reality of exploiting innovation in order to bring around the long-awaited transformation in our nation, Nigeria. Regardless of colour, age, tradition, and class one thing is very common to all categories of women and this is the ability to multi-task”
Explaining her lecture titled: Innovation and Relevance: Trail to Balanced and Better Society, Ogunsuyi said women need to appraise themselves to determine simpler ways of achieving their goals without changing their original idea and must also not allow their ideas to go obsolete.
Ogunsuyi challenged women to be creative, curious, have a strategic plan in order to become productive thereby contributing their quota to the development of their society.
She urged women to discover their potentials and bring it up saying wisdom and excellence have no gender thus they must be at their best.
She also used the opportunity to stress the need for women to adapt in order not to go into extinction.
Falana in her lecture stressed the need for women to become life-long learner by learning, unlearning and relearning.
She said the theme for this years’ celebration came as a result of the need for gender parity in all spheres of life.
She, however, urged women to take care of their health, exercise regularly, eat well, relax and again have good sources of income in order to be in a position to contribute their quota.
The event which is part of the effort of NDDC and Doze Needy Education Foundation to mark the 2019 International Women’s Day is aimed at advancing gender equality and empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of the social protection system, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure.
We’re branded ‘prostitutes’ for contesting 2019 elections – Female politicians
Women Candidates in the last elections in Bauchi state have lamented that they are branded as “prostitutes” for participating in the 2019 politics.
This was dsiclosed by a cross section of women who spoke at a Women Candidates Dialogue Forum, organized by the Young Leaders Network (YLN) which held in Bauchi lsaying it is discouraging women from engaging in politics.
The Young Leadership Forum brought women from different political parties to assess the challenges they faced during the last general elections and seek for ways to address them.
Contributing during the interactions, the candidate of Green Party of Nigeria from Bogoro Sate Constituency in the last election, Mantuda Adamu said that the major challenge she faced was finance, however lamented that she was labeled a prostitute because of her doggednessl
As a woman, if you come out boldly to contest in Bauchi state, they will say you are a prostitute. If they call you for a meeting at about 10 or 11pm, people will say you want to go for business (prostitution) and not for politics.”
Matunda Adamu recounted that when she approached the major political parties to contest under their platforms, she realized that it was capital intensive because “most of the delegates asked me what I have to offer them.”
She explained that, “Some of them asked for motorcycles, some for N100, 000 and some N50, 000. As a woman, if you are not in the position to offer them these, they won’t vote for you.”
While, Balkisu Ayuba, who contested the Dass Constituency under the Social Democratic Party (SDP), said that some of the executives of the party said she would not be allowed to contest in the party because she was not yet married.
Ayuba stated that she her life was also threatened on the day she flagged off her campaign.
“I had an accident the day I went to buy my nomination form and I also had another accident the day I flagged off my campaign, I got an anonymous call from a woman who said to me: “Step aside and don’t contest again or I swear to God, you will die if you refuse.”
“I told her I won’t but at a point, I felt like quitting, it was my mentor that stopped me from doing that.”
Ayuba who said that she was the only woman contestant among 9 men lamented that her opponents kept campaigning against her.
She said, “If I go to a particular village to campaign and I leave, my opponents will go for campaign of calumny against me. These factors discourage women from going for electoral offices,” she stated.
A National Ex-Officio of the People’s Democratic Party, Hassana Arkila, called on women to come together to form a strong united force that will make impact politically and take over from the men.
She said: “Women are the only ones that make things happen and if we join our hands together, these men will go no where because we are the majority. We can influence the youth and even convince our husbands, if we know how to play our cards well.”
No development without female participation – Mrs Fayemi
First Lady of Ekiti State, Erelu Bisi Fayemi has said no country can achieve development goals without the active and full participation of its female folks.
She spoke in Abuja on Monday while moderating a panel discussion on, “The Transformation Women Want :Galvanising for a Common Agenda”, at the launch of the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN).
According to Mrs Fayemi, “If there is any country in the world that is expecting to achieve all the development goals without the full and equal participation of women such a country is trying to clap with one hand and it is not going to be possible . She said the key to addressing the social, economic and so on challenges, that women mostly face, is the empowerment of women and girls.
“We now have lower women in governance about four per cent in national assembly whereas in Rwanda and other countries women participation is increasing.
“What kind of future are we going to have if women do not have a voice in the country? So I hope that AWLN will help in engaging in advocacies for the implementation of laws and other things to benefit the Nigerian woman,’’ she said.
Mrs Aisha Dukku, a member of House of Representative from Gombe state said that men always listen to women and urged them to grab that opportunity and build on it. Dukku also called on women to go back home and build structures, while urging them not depend on structures that have been built by men.
“Go to the political parties and be part of it all, where they are bringing their executives from wards from units be there and bring your own ward and units executives,” she said. Dukku advised women to connect with their people from the grassroots because if there is no connectivity between them they won’t go far. She called for legislations that would give women advantages governance and political sphere adding that a percentage for women participation in politics would make a difference.
Dr Joy Onyesoh, National Coordinator, Women Situation Room, Nigeria said that women needed to be clear on what they wanted and to demand for it.
Onyesoh said that there is also need for women to groom each of other across generations creating a synergy of mentorship to help women get better equipped for leadership.
“This will help to have a culture like a relay passing the baton from one generation to another,’’ she said
Prof. Joy Ezeilo , Dean of Law, University of Nigeria, Nsukka said that it has been 100 years since Nigeria came into existence and 100 years down the line women’s participation is still low. Ezeilo said that a country like Nigeria with federal character should get to where gender would matter and where gender would be an indices for that federal character.
“We cannot have a Nigeria where women don’t matter because women matters, all we are saying is to reinforce our demand in a very clear manner that no women no nation,’’ she said.
Women suffer violence in their families too – UN Report
Families can be places of love, care, and fulfillment but, too often, they are also spaces where women’s and girls’ rights are violated, their voices are stifled, and where gender inequality prevails.”
A flagship report by the UN Women “Progress of the world’s women 2019–2020: Families in a changing world evaluates the reality of families today in the context of sweeping economic, demographic, political, and social transformation.
The report features global, regional, and national data. It also analyses key issues such as family laws, employment, and unpaid care work, violence against women, and families and migration.
During the launch of the report on Tuesday, U.N. Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stated that the report is a burning issue because of, “the shocking pervasiveness of intimate partner violence. In 2017, for example, every single day 137 women were killed by a family member,” she said.
Mlambo-Ngcuka, “Women around the world, and their allies, will not allow a roll-back of everything that we have achieved.
According to the report, 38% of households globally are couples living with children, 27% are extended families including other relatives and 8% are one-parent families, the vast majority led by women often juggling paid work, raising children and unpaid domestic work. Households including couples without children accounted for about 13% and one-person households for 12.5%.
The report proposes a comprehensive family-friendly policy agenda to advance gender equality in diverse families. A compendium of policies to deliver this agenda is affordable for most countries, according to a costing analysis included in the report. When families are places of equality and justice, economies and societies thrive and unravel the full potential of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Families around the world look, feel, and live differently today. Yet, families can be “make or break” for women and girls when it comes to achieving their rights.”
Wonders as 195-year-old woman is discovered
People were awed by the discovery of an old woman believed to be the oldest in Ekiti State who was found in one of the communities. Adewumi Ademiju writes
At 195, Elder Mrs. Aowe Osasona, a native of Iludun Ekiti, in Ilejemeje Local Government Area of Ekiti State, still exude energy and gait. Although, she couldn’t talk much, she sang praise/ worship songs joyfully and tirelessly. Indeed, she radiates happiness and fulfillment of life.
When New Telegraph visited her at the residence of the aged in Iludun Ekiti. She managed to mumble some words but not cleared. She later picked up and sang praise/worship songs fluently. At 195, Elder Osasona apparently depicted every sign of good care needed in old age. She however said, “if not for this kind of initiative, many might not know that someone of my age is still living, it’s a good programme that must never die.”
Speaking on behalf of the great grandmother, one of her children, Mrs. Comfort Ogundare, who is in her late 70s, described her mother as loving and caring. “That’s why we are all around her to ensure she does not lack care,” she said. She narrated the story of her mother who was born in 1824. She said that the mother stayed long before she got fruit of the womb as she gave birth to her first child in 1879 at the age of 55.
According to Ogundare, her first child (daughter) was born in 1879 and still alive at the age of 140! The first daughter she said is living in Igogo Ekiti, Moba LGA of Ekiti State. “Mama has five children; it took her long time in marriage before she could give birth.
She explained that her 195-years old mother was the youngest wife of the second late monarch of Ipere Ekiti HRM Oba Arowolobioyinbo, Osasona of Ipere Ekiti, a community close to Iludun Ekiti.
Ogundare said the programme of Aged Peoples Initiative, ( API) could be best described as an addendum to the longevity of her mother, Aowe Osasona. “They always visit her, pray and sing worship songs with her.”
The good care expected of old age is obvious in her appearance and the environment she stays in. Although, the abode is not characterised with modern aesthetics, she resides in a neat and decent environment that is likeable and just perfect for her age. Further describing the great grandma as energetic and dutiful, Ogundare recounted when her mother was a business guru in her youthful age. She recounted how her mother used to tell them her trekking days from one community to the other to buy goods, the story of ‘War of Hitler’ she used to tell them and other interesting experiences.
She however explained that mama’s children and the grand ones all agreed that she should stay permanently with her (Ogundare) and ensure mama is adequately catered for, while others give all necessary financial support.
New Telegraph came across the 195year old great grandmother at a program for the aged organised by a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO)-‘Aged Peoples Initiative’ (API), a foundation that cares for the aged. She danced gleefully and rejoiced with the anchor, Mrs Omotayo Olatunde who is also the founder of the NGO.
So far, the program according to the founder, has contributed to lives of the elderly ones immensely. She stated that the aim of the program is to lead the aged to the way of the Lord. “The Program is divided into two, there is one every 15days, there is also an annual one called ‘Festival for the Aged’ (Odun Arugbo).
Olatunde said that, “during the festival, we bring the aged from all communities in the state to wine and dine together. We buy cloth for them; make arrangement to bring them from their homes to the venue. They dance and we make them happy and feel relevant despite the old age. Those of them who cannot dance for health reasons sit and participate comfortably.”
Olatunde explained further that since the aged have been attending the program, their views about religion have been positively impacted. “Even there was a time when the annual festival coincided with Yam Festival of a community, surprisingly, many of the aged in that community trooped into the ‘Aged festival (Odun Arugbo) and abandoned the yam festival.
According to Olatunde, some of the aged people are abandoned by their children, but she pointed out that even those children too might not do that intentionally, but due to economic hardship and challenges of their own immediate family responsibilities. “API has taken it upon itself the responsibility of making the aged happy, feel relevant and belonging in the society. They are old people from 70years and above. So, this is not about empowerment, because they are not working, we make them happy and channel them to the way of God and make them feel important till they answer the call of God.”
However, Olatunde called on government officials to use their position to care for the aged medically and financially. “They are old, they can’t work again. Some of their children are far away, they don’t come home to take care of their aged,” she pleaded.
Menstruation: The myths, silence, misconceptions and facts
“When I told my friends about painful menstrual periods, one of them said if I had sexual intercourse with a man, the pain will go but I didn’t,’’ Ada Solomon, a 14-year old recluse student of a junior secondary school in Abuja, silently shares her standpoint.
In a related incident, another pupil, Sarah Audu recalls: “When I was nine years old, living with my father and my step-mother, I went to a nearby bush to urinate when I noticed some bloodstains in between my legs.
“I ran to tell my father that I had been injured, maybe with a stick while urinating, but my father exclaimed, telling me I have become a woman and my step-mother gave me a piece of cloth as sanitary pads.
“Because nobody has told me more about menstruation, later, when I was 12 years old, I was returning from school when a male classmate saw bloodstains on my uniform and he called my attention to it in the public; embarrassing me.
“Students made mockery of me that I have started doing funny things around and that was why bloodstains were on my uniform. I didn’t go to school for a week.’’
Audu’s experience is enough a reason why teenage girls ought to know much about sex education, their physical development inclusive.
Medical experts note that many girls will have irregular menstrual periods up to the first two years after the first one, known as menarche, because they are still growing.
According to them, a menstrual cycle is considered the time from the first day of bleeding one month to the first day of bleeding the following month — lasting between 21 days and 34 days.
They also observe that girls will begin to see changes to their bodies between the ages of eight years and 13 years, growing the breasts or breast buds.
Once the girls begin menstruation, they are subjected to some erroneous beliefs in some communities, resulting in keeping silence among some girls that experience the first menstruation and who seek wrong directives.
For instance, in Nepal, many women in their menstrual periods die from suffocation arising from smoke of fireworks they made while they sleep outside their homes to avoid cold.
The practice, called “chaupadi’’, is linked to Hindu beliefs around religious purity and the idea that menstruation is spiritually polluting.
Also, in some countries, a woman who is menstruating is advised to avoid temples, prayer rooms and, sometimes, kitchens.
Misconceptions such as you don’t cradle babies or you will cause them to get sick, you need to wash your sanitary pads before throwing them out to prevent ghosts from chasing you, are also rife in some climes.
Analysts note that in some rural communities in Nigeria, menstruation is often perceived as dirty and shameful.
In that case, men and women may maintain separate quarters while a woman is menstruating, while some women may not be able to wash their pads publicly or dispose of them for fear of being attacked by witchcraft activities that the communities have made them to believe.
Further to this, WaterAid Nigeria says the state of menstrual hygiene in schools shows that there exist many barriers for girls; the most glaring of all is the lack of water and sanitation in the schools.
It notes that in many of the schools, the girls miss school on the first day of the period because there are no hygiene facilities such as water, bathrooms or soap available for personal cleaning, while proper disposal of used sanitary pads is not as easy as it ought to be.
In an attempt to address some of the challenges associated with girls’ reproductive health, the United Nations Council on Human Rights passed a resolution, urging all countries to take decisive action to ensure that women and girls have universal access to information on menstrual products and facilities.
In accordance with this, Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Champion Olufemi Aluko, calls for the need to push for concrete actions that could influence the perception of police makers on MHM.
He notes that students, who ought to be champions, have been quiet for so long while multitudes abstain from school and drop out of school due to lack of MHM facilities and stigma in the school environment.
“When you visit those rural communities and ask questions about education and MHM, you will then realise the burden of menstrual hygiene mismanagement and lack of awareness by parents and guardians,’’ he says
But Mr. Job Ominyi, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Officer of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), says no fewer than 25 women have been trained in the production of re-usable sanitary pads to improve women and girls’ health in Malumfashi Local Government of Katsina State recently.
“This became necessary following the outcome of a research in 2015 among the three major ethnic groups and observing that there was poor knowledge, attitude and practice on MHM in parts of the country,’’ he says.
In her opinion, Mrs Christiana Oliko from the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Abuja, says institutionalising MHM into policies and programmes of government will change the narratives on poor menstrual health.
She observes that some countries have started to develop programmes and integrate menstrual hygiene management in their policies.
Beside this, Mr Daniel Iroegbu, Convener of “Period Matters Project’’, underscores the need for advocacy, capacity building and involvement of stakeholders to dispel the stereotype around menstruation and sexuality.
“The government, institutions and organisations should provide functional sanitary facilities — adequate water for wash-up and efficient waste disposal facility — in schools and workplaces to enable girls and young women to effectively manage their menstruation in privacy with respect and dignity,’’ he advises.
Observance of Menstrual Hygiene Day on every May 28, initiated in 2014 by a German based non-governmental organisation, WASH, symbolises the average length of the menstrual cycle –28 days — and May; the fifth month of the year, indicates the average days that menstruation can last.
In her advice, Dr Michelle Truong, Programme Associate, International Women’s Health Coalition prescribes enhancing access to high-quality comprehensive sexuality education for expanding girls’ knowledge of menstruation and their capacity to deal with it.
According to her, sexuality education that includes discussions of puberty and menstruation and that tackles gender issues will bring about what adolescent girls need to grow up in an environment where menstruation is seen as something healthy and normal.
• Kolade writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Girl-child: Campaigning against sexual abuse
Girl-child activists have renewed fight against the continued sexual molestation and abuse of under aged girls in the country, saying it is a menace that is capable of intimidating and limiting the girl-child holistic development.
The activists, who also called on government and all relevant stakeholders to invest in the development of the girl-child, also stated that girls need a conducive environment to grow into responsible women.
One of the activists, founder of Helpline Foundation for the Needy, Dr. Jumai Ahmadu said the girl-child cannot maximize fully the potential embedded in her, if sexual predators were allowed to continue to prey on her with all manner of violation.
Ahmadu spoke at the plenary of 2019 Voice of the Girls’ Parliament, organised in Abuja by her foundation in collaboration with the Social Development Secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory, as a platform for girls to express themselves and also interface with the older generation.
Ahmad said, “for us to have an empowered woman, we have to start from the cradle so they have value for themselves and be truly independent. Building up a woman is a task that requires time and commitment; therefore it is a wise step to begin early.”
She said further that, “following the popular phrase ‘catch them young’, we advocate the foundation of building a generation of strong, dependable, strong-willed and innovative women, be laid from now in the hearts of our young girls.
“We should be mindful of the fact that we all have a role to play in the physical development and mental development of our girls if they must grow up to be strong women.
“If we want them to be able to stand up and speak for themselves in the face of bullies, sexual opportunists, teacher-female student oppression and other environmental challenges the girl-child is prone to face, we have to bring them up in a society that enables, encourages them to speak up! We have to teach them to find their voice and use it.”
Also speaking at the event, the Acting Secretary of FCT Social Development Secretariat, Hajia Safiya Umar, urged girls who were chosen from different schools within the FCT to resist every attempt from any quarters capable of limiting them.
Umar who applauded efforts of the activists in championing courses that promote well-being of the girl-child, also enjoined all stakeholders to synergise in creating an environment that would enable the girl -child to develop.
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