Queen Babafemi Aina is the founder Hope Without Borders Foundation (HWBF), a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), dedicated to improving lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the society. In this interview with ENE OSANG she speaks on the organisation’s partnership with Pad Up Africa Initiative on menstrual hygiene campaign.
You are the founder Hope Without Borders Foundation, why are you involved in menstrual hygiene sensitization and why the visit to the disabled community in Abuja?
We are here in partnership with Pad Up Africa Initiative to carry out sensitization program on women menstrual hygiene in the grassroots covering the whole of Nigeria.
We want to sensitize women in Africa and the best place to start is from the home front as they say ‘charity begins at home’, and so we are here in this community today, a community for disabled people.
In this community we have couple of cases of women using unhealthy products as pads during menstruation but we taught it was best for them to use the reusable pads they can use it more than once.
This pads could be washed and reused for a period of one year and more which is economical, odourless without irritation since they cannot afford disposable pads we are introducing the reusable pads.
Also, we want to know how they manage post natal period, because we found out that some women have infection during this period due to the material they use but by the time they switch to reusable pad they won’t need those rags they formerly used.
Why this community and how did you locate it?
Actually, we located this community through our street to school project for children, which will be coming up in Abuja. We trace child-beggars on the street down to their homes. While on this, we met with their parents and we found out that most people living in this community are people with disability, we were shocked.
So, we decided that if we are distributing any items to able bodied people why not include the disabled also? In this community the kids cater for their parents, they go to beg to get money for feeding.
We met the Emir of the community to see how we could render assistance, and he said they were not happy with such situation. So, we told them that we were going to provide free education for their children. That’s how we got to know about this community. We also found out that we could help the disabled women.
What do you hope to achieve with the Street to School project?
Our aim is to provide school for children by paying for teachers and providing things they need in school.
We will also provide menstrual hygiene items for women and girls in the community to improve on their hygiene.
We found out that many girls have stayed away from school when they are having their periods and we want to stop this and encourage more girls to go to school.
How sustainable is this project and how are you getting the funds?
We have people that have come to our aid. We have our own funds as an organisation but we still seek for funding from other organizations to come to our aid to help women and girls in the society. We actually named the project No More Rags and Disposal Sanitary Pads.
We also found out that some women, due to their poor economic conditions, could not afford sanitary pads, so they use leaves and rags during their menstrual cycle. The leaf serve as a water proof base, all these are not healthy.
We even discovered that some people also use goat skin.
When we visited Gwarinpa Village on one of our sensitization visits, we discovered that so many women usually go to a dump site to pick used disposable pads wash and sun-dry them and use the during their circle. That was heartbreaking.
We thought about that it, if they could puck used sanitary pads to wash and reuse we could actually provide reusable pads for them.
These reusable pads could be used monthly for up to one year and more, so they don’t have to bother where to get money for pads. All they need to do is to keep it clean and dry after use till the next period.
We intend to reach out to more people if we get more funds.
What role can government play in ensuring better life for the Kuchigoro disabled community?
We will advice the government to come to their aid because this is a very large community of disabled people. Innocent children have been giving the responsibly to attend to their parents, instead of being in school and being cared for. Government has tried because I see a school here.
We learnt that other organizations come here to donate wheelchairs, borehole and other things, but we will want people to help their children because if we don’t provide for these children they may end up becoming hoodlums and miscreants. It could come to a stage where they may feel that the society has abandoned them.
We are going to the community to better their lives, to provide a source livelihood so that they can cater for their kids.