This was the question from a 14-year-old girl having her period—at one of our girls’ intimate sessions, I hosted during my one-year service in a remote village of Eastern Nigeria.Culture
My name is Nkechika Ibe, and I am the founder of Impact Her World Foundation, which focuses on promoting and improving the well-being of women and girls, protecting the rights of women, and empowering them to actualize full potential in their diverse areas of personal and socio-economic development.
While writing this article for SHE Community, I reflected on past beliefs and realized — I was wrong. Everything is possible when we put our minds to it, wear the right attitude and believe in our capacity to create beautiful outcomes.
“Success has no gender, and the call to serve humanity is universal.”
Growing up in Nigeria, I did not categorize my family as poor, even when we obviously could not afford a certain lifestyle. However, my parents undauntedly saw their five children through school without me missing a session; that for me is golden.
After my graduation, I knew it was time to leave. Not everyone was supportive of me leaving home.
I was threatened with withdrawal of financial support and numerous discouraging stories, but I vowed not to spend another month at home. Not because it was unfavourable or uncomfortable there, but because that home at that time was not a place to grow.
“I began to seek knowledge and desired to become as powerful as the women I watched on television.“
That is when I discovered several women’s platforms, including the SHE Community. I kept a tab of the SHE conferences and have always dreamed of speaking on such a huge platform.
However, more than anything, the platform has kept my dreams alive and hopeful to be the woman I am gradually growing to become. I consciously dared to pursue a life of impact and influence, but nothing really prepared me for the journey ahead.
As a young girl, I belong to the second category. I knew it was something unique about me but never knew how to blossom into that woman.
Increasing the knowledge of health will leave better a future
My compulsory one-year service in a remote village in the Eastern region of Nigeria remains my aha-moment. I encountered life and people at a stage I never knew still existed.
I met teenage girls dropping out of school to get married, missing school because they have poor or no means of taking care of their periods, young boys who would rather be ‘okada’ (bike) riders than pursue a better future, and parents who have no clue on how to do better or give better.
I started a reading club, a step I took to connect and bond with my students so we can learn, connect, and grow.
Although I had to leave the community after one year, I was sure I had figured it out to some extent; part of my journey and the rest of my story is my lived experiences in this community that formed the basis of all our work at Impact Her World Foundation.
The question that started it all
I never in a million years imagined being confronted with such a question: “Must we all bleed?” A 14-year-old girl Ebele having her period asked it at one of our girl’s intimate sessions that I hosted during my one-year service in a remote village in Eastern Nigeria.
Ebele is already so frustrated with her mensural experiences that she wishes them away. Another girl thinks better if she gets pregnant and does not have to deal with them at all.
For others, it is embarrassing to get stained because they cannot afford a good sanitary product to take care of their period asides from worn-out wrappers and tissues. Some do many unthinkable things because of the period myths they have come to accept and live with.
Knowledge is key to a better future and health.
I saw an opportunity to impact girls’ lives and serve humanity. As a result of the support I received, I decided to become a support system for girls.
- One in ten girls in Africa misses school due to periods which is approximately 20% of a school year.
- In Nigeria, a heavy tax is placed on sanitary pads, which cost about $1.93.
For a country with over 44% of its population living below $1.93 per day, life at an early stage of adolescence becomes harsh for the girl child.
The Girls Period Kit – a contributor to a better health
As part of my intervention, the Girls Period Kit was launched to address the issue of the vulnerability of girls to sexual abuse due to constant absence from school and overall period of poverty.
More than 200 girls have benefitted from the kits with amazing feedback.
The training project is also targeted at hands-on training on their sexual and reproductive health, rights, and life skills, with over 3000 trained girls.
On this path and in my quest to learn, I have discovered powerful women’s platforms like the SHE Conference, where stories and unique advice of women around the world have inspired me never to give up — irrespective of the challenges faced by a girl child in Africa, especially Nigeria.
School is luxury, anyways, right?
The number of children out of school or partially in school is unbelievable. Many families in Nigeria are struggling to afford education and provide basic needs for their children.
- According to UNICEF (2022), 60% of 18.5 million children in Nigeria are out of school, of whom 10 million are girls.
So, yes — school is a luxury for the Nigerian’s children, both boys and girls.
School is a luxury, especially for girls who are left behind at home to ensure their male siblings attend school and become breadwinners tomorrow. Girls start working early to provide for their families, or they are taken away to become house help or to get married at an early age, either as collateral or to bring money to their homes.
For all my time in this community, I constantly asked myself, “Where would I have been without education?”
I realized that it was time to act on providing solutions to the education issues. We started the Edu4Her project, an educational support program where we fundraise to give children with a greater focus on girl children the opportunity to have a better life.
Supporting and inspiring each other to a better future
I am still on my adventurous path, and today, you can join me on this journey of raising a future generation of strong women and girls. If you want to know more and engage please check Impact Her World Foundation campaign.
To learn more about our work, please visit our website at www.ihwf.org.ng and follow our social media: