Young women and girls maintain their dignity in Sumaila, Kano State
Menstruation is experienced by females the world over, yet for many young women their monthly cycle is an unwelcome addition to the gender disparities they face. In communities across Nigeria, women use anything from old clothes to toilet paper to deal with their menstrual flow. Many girls from poor communities do not use anything at all simply because they don’t have the money to buy them. The effects on their health, education and dignity are immense. High numbers of adolescent girls miss school due to menstruation-related issues, while for others, a lack of knowledge brings shame and fear.
26 year old Nefisa Abdulazeez is taking steps to help change this by distributing sanitary products to nearly 200 young women in Sumaila, Kano State. “The young women here were using rags and knew very little about the effects of this on their health,” she explains. “I believe that without proper hygiene, these girls cannot receive the education they deserve.”
Before joining the Purple Safe Space at Bayero University Kano, Nefisa was not concerned about issues related with women and girls. “Getting into Purple Safe Space was an entirely new experience. I discovered I had embraced the wrong mindset from childhood. I became interested in anything that had to do with young women and this really stirred me up to help those in rural areas,” she says.
Using what she has learned from the Purple Safe Space programme, Nefisa also educates young women who she sees as “the leaders of today” on a wide range of issues. “I go to these rural areas, educate them about early marriage, their rights as women and also teach them how to make soap and other cleaning products.”
Nefisa’s upbringing as a young Muslim woman in Kano had encouraged her to view herself as subordinate to men in every aspect of her life including her education, work and family life. Before Nefisa could even dream of getting into university, she had to wait for her brother, the youngest child of her family, to start his Master’s degree and complete the first phase of his qualification with the Institute of Chartered Accounts of Nigeria (ICAN). “This has really affected me and my elder sisters’ education,” she explains.
The Purple Safe Space also inspired Nefisa to go into business selling womens’ wears and accessories. “As a woman, you don’t have to sit at home as a house wife or wait to get a job. You have the right start your own business from your doorstep or from your room.” she says.
In addition to reaching out to young women and girls in her community through mentorship programmes and other projects, Nefisa has also created a Facebook page that seeks to stop gender-based discrimination and create awareness of women in leadership roles. On this platform, she also links up people experiencing violence or guides them towards organisations that can help.