In this interview, members of the Sanitary Aid for Nigerian Girls team, Tife Soloye and Cynthia Ndeche talk about their unique movement, how it all began, their future plans and much more.
1. What led to the revolution that started SANG?
Cyntheeya: Conversations about the price of sanitary pads started on Nigerian Twitter one day and Karo used that as an opportunity to seek for donations for underprivileged girls who couldn’t afford pads.
This was where it all began.
Going to put together funds to buy girls in public secondary schools& IDP camps sanitary pads for next month. Hit me up if you want to help.
— Slay Queen (Period Partner) (@duchesskk) January 15, 2017
Tife: I came across Karo’s tweet days later where she was asking for support to send pads to females who could not afford it. And I was blown away by it. And yes, it started there for me.
2. How did you get funding for the works you’ve done?
Cyntheeya: We kicked off by crowd funding from Twitter and had our first sanitary drive where people donated sanitary pads, water bottles and so on… We reached out to organizations and people to assist with our cause and we got some positive responses from Oby Ezekwesili, Always Nigeria and a lot of people on Twitter, who made cash and pad donations. I was overwhelmed by the responses tbh. There were also sanitary drives where people came in to support us with pads, water bottles, towels, soaps and so on.
Tife: This honestly showed me that social media is a powerful tool and can be used to achieve whatever, whenever.
It’s amazing the growth between then and now.
3. What is SANG and what does it want to achieve in the long run?
Cyntheeya: SANG is Sanitary Aid for Nigerian Girls and its aim is to first give sanitary aid to girls from low-income families and IDPs in different areas of the country who cannot afford sanitary pads monthly. It solves a deeper issue of promoting sanitary hygiene through educating the women on good hygiene practices, ensuring the good health of young girls are sustainable and keeping them in school as one in ten girls miss school during their menstrual cycle. In the long run we hope that the price of sanitary pads be subsidized greatly or totally removed as women don’t have the choice of switching off our menstruation.
4. How many women/girls have we helped so far?
Cyntheeya: So far, that is from January 2017, sanitary aid has provided pads for over 4000 girls and we’re hoping to do much more this year.
Tife: Oh yes. We have kicked off the ‘Adopt a state’ campaign where anyone can pick a state and fund 100 girls with sanitary pads.
So by default, if everything goes according to plan, we are to be funding 3600 girls a month.
5. Why are sanitary pads essential to young women and in what way can its absence impair a girl child’s growth?
Tife: Every single woman has to go through the process, not by choice but by design. Because of this, there has to be an availability of danger free means by which she goes through this process without mishaps. This is where pads come in. Other things like leaves and material etc are an avenue for all sorts of diseases that stunt a young woman’s well being, so it’s important that she has access to healthy and safe sanitary Aid.
Cynthia: Menstrual hygiene is an important issue that affects young adolescents and adult women monthly. The restricted access to good, disposable pads and Sanitary hygiene products increases the risk of urogenital and reproductive tract infections in women. For example, there are some parts of Nigeria where women with no access to important sanitary products have to reuse absorbent pads. Cultures and traditions also hinder women’s growth as they force women to dry those reusable pads indoors away from sunlight which in turn promotes the imbalance on microbiota. In some IDP camps, women are forced to use leaves during their menstrual period and this exposes them to all sorts of pathogens and diseases. These can impair a child’s growth both physically and mentally and this is why providing sanitary aid to them is important to us as an organization.
6. Apart from distributing pads, what other things does SANG do for the girls?
Tife: We talk about the process of menstruation. What it entails, the cycle, the ups and downs, the safest way(s) to go through the process etc. Recently, we began to incorporating sex education and consent into our conversations with the girls.
Cyntheeya: We try to educate girls and women on good sanitary hygiene practices. There is a social stigma or taboo surrounding menstrual periods which makes girls embarrassed of talking about the changes they experience during their periods. This is a culture we’re trying to change by encouraging them to have open and honest conversations about menstruation. Menstruation is natural and isn’t something any woman should be ashamed of.
7. How sustainable is the idea and what are the next moves for you?
Cyntheeya: The idea of providing pads for young girls monthly is sustainable as long as we get the help we need from people and various organizations.
Currently, we’re looking to focus of what we call “Adopt a State” as Tife mentioned where an organization or body or person takes upon the funding for the provision of pads for a certain number of girls in every state for the whole year.
We’re currently soliciting for both funds and materials to make this possible.
8. How many people make up the SANG team?
Tife: Currently we have a team of 8 amazing women: Karo Omu, Cynthia Ndeche, Ify Mbanugo, Tife Soloye (that’s me), Mide Odukoya, Tolani Thomas, Gabriella Scott and Alexa Chukwumah.
9. How can people help your cause?
Tife: Funds. Obviously. *chuckles*
We have an ‘Adopt a State’ method as I mentioned earlier where you can choose to give N70,000 to be able to supply 100 girls two pads in a state for a particular month, or honestly whatever it is you want to use as a medium of support.
Also, we sometimes need volunteers for outreaches. That’s also a means of support.