By Olimatou Coker
The UNFPA with funding from the UN Secretary General’s Peacebuilding Fund last Friday inaugurated a reusable menstrual pad products centre in the URR.
The centre is established to create a means of living for women, promote the use of climate-friendly products and reduce dependency on natural resources through income diversification and climate friendly solutions. The pad centre seeks to ensure the availability of reusable sanitary pads for adolescent girls to ensure school attendance, improved sexual reproductive health, reduce economic burden and environmental impact of the disposable pads.
Kunle Adeniyi, the UNFPA country representative, said: “The production of the reusable sanitary pads will not only create economic livelihoods for the selected women, but it will also equip them with life changing skills. It will have a ripple effect on their health and well-being and growth and development for them, their families and communities.”
He said the centre will be a site for the provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services especially non-prescription methods of family planning. While the production will also ensure the availability of reusable sanitary pads for adolescent girls in-order to ensure schools attendance.
The First Lady, Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, called the opening of the centre “a momentous day for The Gambia”.
“This initiative is one of a kind, as this is the first ever reusable pad production centre established in the history of The Gambia by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare together with the Network Against Gender-Based Violence with support from UNFPA, The Gambia,” she said.
She added: “As we may know, menstrual health hygiene management (MHHM) is one among several challenges that adolescent girls face thus limiting them from achieving equitable education opportunities. In low- and middle-income countries, practicing good menstrual hygiene is a difficult task for women and girls due to various reasons. Misinformation thrives because menstruation is considered as a taboo, a subject that is rarely discussed. In addition to this, women and girls lack access to appropriate infrastructure. Commercial menstrual management supplies are either not available or unaffordable.
“I want to assure you all that the Office of the First Lady will give all the support necessary for the realisation of this great initiative and other women’s empowerment programmes in the country. On that note, I declare the Women Empowerment and Peace-building Initiative Centre officially launched.”
Fallu Sowe, the national coordinator of NGBV, said the event signifies “another step” in their crusade to improve Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) of girls in The Gambia, particularly in URR.
“It is an open secret that women and girls in the rural and hard-to-reach communities face many challenges managing menstruation due to limited access to quality menstrual pads, limited and inaccurate information about menstruation and the psychological changes associated with puberty,” Mr Sowe remarked.
To address these challenges, the URR pad centre is initiated and funded by UNFPA through the climate change project under the PBF in partnership with the NGBV as an implementing partner and Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare as the responsible government institution.”
Fatou Kinteh, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, said studies have revealed that some families spend thousands of dollars annually for the procurement of sanitary towels and that families in The Gambia are no exception.
Samba Bah, Governor of Upper River Region, thanked UNFPA and its funding partners for opening the centre in his region.