International Women’s Day: Prioritising Women’s Health.

By: Samuel Olowolayemo

Every year, the International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on the 8th of March to recognize the achievement and contribution of women in the society and is concerned about promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and thereby improving the well-being of women in all areas of life.

With this in mind, it is imperative to concentrate on issues impacting women and girls, particularly with regard to their health. In honor of International Women’s Day, this article examines two areas of importance to women and girl’s health – menstrual health and hygiene and cervical cancer.

Women and girls face unique health challenges, especially on reproductive health which poses severe consequences when not addressed and hence calls for education and multi-layered interventions from NGOs, government, organizations and individuals.

Menstrual health, an essential aspect of a woman’s overall health and well-being, involves ensuring that women and girls have access to the necessary resources and information to manage their menstruation safely and with dignity. Period poverty and unhygienic bathroom condition result in poor menstrual health which causes various health issues, including urinary tract infections, reproductive tract infections, and anemia.

Proper hygienic practices and attitudes towards menstruation are crucial in ensuring good menstrual health. Women and girls should have access to clean and safe menstrual products, such as sanitary pads, tampons, or menstrual cups. They should also have access to clean and private bathrooms, where they can change their menstrual products and dispose of them properly. It is important that our female public bathrooms in the University are put in good conditions, to promote hygienic practices amongst ladies which is necessary to prevent various mild to serious infections. For example, neglecting to wash hands after changing menstrual products can spread infections, such as hepatitis B and thrush.

In Nigeria, every year, about 15,000 women are diagnosed of cervical cancer with approximately 8,000 deaths per year. Cervical cancer which is mainly a sexually transmitted viral infection (Human Papillomavirus, HPV) ranks as the 2nd most frequent cancer among women in Nigeria. According to a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the prevalence of HPV infection among Nigerian university students is high, with a prevalence rate of 24.4%. Several causes have been identified for this significant numbers which include early sexual debut and multiple sexual partners.

According to WHO, the most effective means of combating cervical cancer is through vaccination and the best age group to target for this is the adolescent, 9-14 years. This will ensure that before sexual maturity and exposure girls are protected against this virus. It is also interesting to note that at this age group, majority are under the watch of their parents and guardian and have not attained the legal age for sexual consent.

Finally, regular cervical cancer screening can detect precancerous changes in the cervix, allowing for early treatment and prevention of cervical cancer. However, many women in Nigeria, including university students, do not have access to regular screening. There are also problems on the availability and affordability of the HPV vaccines. These are critical areas yearning for concern from the government and stakeholders to help reduce cervical cancer amongst female university students and the women population at large.

In conclusion, on International Women’s Day, let’s prioritize women’s health by addressing menstrual hygiene and cervical cancer. Education, access to resources, and healthcare services are crucial. By advocating for policies and initiatives, we can empower women and girls to lead healthy lives. Let’s work together towards a future where every woman has the opportunity to thrive.

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