By Luminous Jannamike
WE are in a world where an estimated 3.8 billion women are expected to experience 450 menstrual flows in their lifetime and use 11,000 – 16,000 sanitary pads each.
During each flow, between 10 – 80 ml of blood is discharged from the body. However, what happens to the female reproductive wastes and the sanitary pads used in collecting them?
This was the focus of an International Women’s Day road show organised in Abuja by the Stewards of the Environment for Sustainable Change Initiative (SESCI) with support from the German Green Foundation to highlight the impact of women’s sanitary waste on the environment.
The flag-off of the road show brought together manufacturers of sanitary products, MDAs in the environment and waste sectors, civil society, women groups and students in a bid to find sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives and also mainstream it into policy formulation and implementation for the
“The sanitary products used by women during menstruation end up in the environment and don’t biodegrade because they have plastic infusions. Even after we are long gone they will still be here yet nobody talks about that.
“What are we going to do about that? Imagine almost four billion women dumping sanitary towels in the environment every month. Aren’t we sitting on an environmental time bomb? We need to something about that urgently,” said Adiza Ujo, the convener of SESCI at the event.
Some participants who spoke with Vanguard admitted not paying thought to the effects menstrual waste was having on the environment.
Elizabeth, 27, said she has been disposing her sanitary pads in waterproof bags like every other domestic waste since she began menstruating at age 10.
“When I started menstruating I was very lucky to get some reliable information because my mother is a nurse and my father is a medical doctor. I knew what to expect each time. But, they didn’t teach me about the impact of my sanitary pads on the environment. I am not even sure they ever thought about it.
“So, the road show has been enlightening. It is good to know there are many more options out there that are friendly to the environment such as the use of biodegradable sanitary towels, and washable pads,” she added.
Another participant, Odiri, 32, who incidentally is a medical doctor herself, also said she has never paid attention to the health risks poorly disposed menstrual waste pose to humans in their environment.
She said, “The fact that there is a whole population of women in this country who don’t know how to conduct their periods in a safe and hygienic way, makes it necessary to throw light on this issue. Even, those of us that feel we are doing it right need to realise that there are a lot to do with regards to how our disposable pads affect the environment.”
Experts who spoke at the ceremony stressed the need for men to be carried along and also educated on the impact sanitary wastes was having on the environment.
Dr. Jennifer Braimah, the President/CEO of Intensive Rescue Foundation International, said: “It might interest you to know that makers of sanitary products are men and they are the ones benefitting from selling pads to women.
“But, when it comes to the nitty-gritty of impacts of their products, they take the backseat and shy away. It has to stop.
“Once that sanitary pads leave us and go into the environment, it comes back into our biological systems. We either take them in by virtue of the fishes or animals in our water bodies, or we take them in by virtue of the air we breathe when they are burnt and toxins are released into the environment.
“If they are in our landfills or dump sites they leech chemicals into our underground water and our plants take them up and we take those plants. So, one way or the other everybody is affected,” she stressed.