By Olamide Adeyeye.
The distribution of contraceptives would no longer make the news in several parts of Africa - particularly Nigeria - even though several young girls, in groanings, go through thick and thin during their menstrual cycle. The reasons for this are not far fetched: with the obvious incidence and high prevalence of HIV and Aids, high rate of teenage pregnancy, high child mortality rate, staggering youth population and ridiculous maternal mortality amongst other issues. However, while sexual intercourse is oftentimes a choice, this call of nature has become a source of pain, shame, and reproach to many African teenagers with almost nobody batting an eyelid. This ‘menstrual ordeal’ has been shown to impede the quality of education among teenage girls and subsequently reducing their chances of transitioning into being active contributors in the socio-economic development of their countries.
Oluwadunsin, founder of Queen Diamond Initiative, a young graduate of Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti Nigeria, can be described as one of the young women on the continent who are not just identifying or talking about this menace but strategically working her talk. She has recognized her capacity to contribute to the development of a better world for teenage girls within her community. Her passion for the feminine gender can be both traced to her personal experience and her commitment to community development.
In her words, 'I grew up as a girl without a clear understanding that the female body system differs from that of the male. No one spoke to me about mensuration and its cycles before my first experience. Upon this realization, all I could make of it was that the female menstrual cycle is something to be ashamed of.' She further narrated how procuring monthly sanitary pads was a tall order for her, considering her family background. In an interview, she shared on how the unsustainable procurement of sanitary towels led to her being advised to use a cloth towel which has its consequences.
She later discovered that she wasn't alone in this 'menstrual poverty' as several other teenage girls and young adults faced this issue under 'masked malaria' every month. These issues are further compounded as it becomes the reason for low self-esteem and confidence among several girls. A commitment to proffer solution to this led to the founding of Queen Diamond Initiative, a nonprofit that is focused on the health and wellbeing of women across Nigeria. Queen Diamond Initiative was founded by Oluwadunsin after a leadership and civic training program organized by Ekiti Connect in partnership with LEAP Africa in April 2019.
Leveraging on the United Nations' commemoration of the world's menstrual hygiene day on 28th May, the Initiative executed a project that had an impact on the lives of over 1000 young secondary school girls in Ekiti state, Nigeria. The young beneficiaries were taught the importance of healthy self-esteem; knowing their body, and understanding the subject of menstruation and the use of sanitary towels. They were also practically shown how to place their pads to avoid stains and the resultant shame that comes from it. At the end of the program, each of the girls went home with a pack of sanitary pads which had been sourced from donations and partnership with a firm involved in its production.
When asked about the challenges faced during the course of the implementation of this project, Miss Dunsin explained that the challenges ranged from getting the right set of volunteers to raising the resources required to achieving the goal of the project. She, however, stressed the role of a mentor who fuelled her optimism through the entire process.
Many may be quick to identify the sustainability gap on this project but the convener was not conservative in expressing how the impact of this program is helping her rethink and redesign future interventions across other regions in the country. A major part of this plan is the production of reusable and biodegradable sanitary towels.
Queen Diamond Initiative and Oluwadunsin have become a model to several young people across the world on the possibility of being the solution to the problems in their communities and also enforcing the mantra that 'One is not too small a number to make a difference.'