Disposing period materials

Walking past this advertisement a few days ago, I smiled. IMG_2927I looked around to see if the women passing by were thinking the same thing I had in my head. There were about a dozen posters with similar message.

All about periods.

I thought to myself, ‘isn’t this wonderful that it’s no longer a shameful thing to have  posters talking about stuff that was once a taboo?’

Oh, well period is still a taboo in many countries of the world.

And in my dear ol’ Nigeria, it is not a taboo perse, not from where I am from. However, there are still so many myths around sanitary towel/pad disposal.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend few weeks a go. We were chatting about her new business idea which will include dealing with hundreds of young adults monthly.

Because sometimes, dreams do come true so we dreamt on. So I reminded her that it is important to include toilet in the building plan from the onset. And the need to have a borehole as she will need uninterrupted water supply.

‘And please separate toilet by gender so you can provide bucket for ladies for their used sanitary pad disposal as need will arise.

This is where she had a fit of laughter on me.

“No way will I supply any sanitary disposal bucket” “The whole town will probably lay a siege on me!”

“They’d say I am collecting their periods for ritual”

“Have you forgotten…?”

She continues to remind me of many stories that our people tell about periods and rituals. Most people are aware that was not true that anyone uses used sanitary pads for rituals but we repeat the same story anyways so younger generation are paranoid and go extreme length to make sure their used pads aren’t used for ritual.

My understanding of the myth surrounding period was that period is seen as unhygienic bodily fluid that women need to be ashamed of, therefore we must keep it secret and not talk about it.

As nature would have it, this is one thing that we don’t have total control over, most healthy women will go through the same process, every month – finding better, cleaner and dignified ways of dealing with that time of the month is welcome in my book.

Below is the comment from nairaland on sanitary pad disposal:

“For me i find it safe to burn sanitary pads, people do scavenge for used pads in refuse dumps for ritual purposes, its either u flush the tissue part of the pad or u burn it,.. Better safe than sorry!”

Not too surprising that a few people burn their sanitary pad every month. This particular lady prefers to be ‘safe than sorry’ One wonders – safe from what or whom?

Another lady from the same thread says she rinses her disposable sanitary pad before she disposed of it – this is all to make sure that juju man would not squeeze the period out for his next potion.

I am grateful for the enlightenment. It is interesting to read some of the comments and to learn that people are terrified of what they can not point their finger to.

Knowing how myths of the unknown can lay heavily in minds, for those who are terrified of the ritual man/woman getting hold of their used sanitary pads, why not try menstrual cupit will need getting used to but by far the most appropriate for our clime.

Alternatively, thinx or similar products.

Voila! no more monthly anxiety of the ritual man. 

Made in Nigeria

Finally, one of the ministers is making sense. Of all the talks about buy Nigeria made goods, Dr Fayemi, Minister of Solid Minerals Development on government supporting locally produced tiles in order to achieve government diversification plan is the only one that I have found reasonable.

There are plenty of reasons to be sceptical about any politician promises. Personally, any politician that forgets the fact that most Nigerians have been ignored for decades is not worth listening to as their policies is done leaving the majority behind.

One need not be a politician to think a little. Nigeria politicians have enjoyed ‘autonomy’ for decades as we have not trained ourselves enough to ask the right questions to make them understand they are in the position to serve not to dish out ill-conceived policies to the population.

In this article Mr Makoji Aduku, the Managing Director of FUJIAN talks about the challenge of tiles and marble operational costs. He said there is no shortage of raw materials in the country but operational costs has hindered capacity building for the company.

“…the company is spending N10 million to buy diesel every month for the operation of the organisation.”

This is true of all big production companies in Nigeria, textile industry is the same. Lack of affordable power is a big issue.

It is comforting to read that Dr Fayemi said government is working to help boast the production in order to keep the price competitive with the imported ones rather than proposing another ban.

It is simple really, competition is a great incentive for companies to improve on quality while keeping price attractive enough to get a piece of market share.

Using tiles for flooring and on the bathroom walls used to be luxury goods in Nigeria, however it is getting popular as more people are investing in their homes so makes sense  local company are supported to increase capacity.

Government wouldn’t have to preach to people to buy local on this one, if the price and quality is comparable, people will always go for the ones they are familiar with the most.

Now to another Senator talking about buy Nigeria product;

“Obasanjo Farms of Nigeria and other large scale poultry farms have the capacity to provide chicken for the entire nation. Since that is the case, why are we even buying imported chicken?” Senator Ben Murray.”

This above statement is one of the reasons it is unbearable reading anything that Senator Ben Murray writes. He talks to himself as if he has not been in Nigeria all these years and thank goodness he has enough grown adults who refused to think.

 The reason Nigeria has been buying imported chicken is simple – our borders are wide open. So when Baba Obasanjo increased tariffs on poultry to unreasonable % for importers to Nigeria, all that they had to do was dump same poultry in Benin for Nigerians to cross over and cart away. 

Who are the main beneficiaries of this? The custom officers and the Nigeria big men/women (mostly politicians) who assured these companies they are ‘covered.’

 Who pays the high price? Nigerians, ordinary Nigerians.  The price people would have paid if the products were allowed into the country jejeli + additional transportation fare from Benin to Nigeria.

I do understand the importance of supporting home-grown products, if anything it will enhance skills, increase creativity and improve job prospects. However, care must be taken so we don’t end up with another monopoly of product leaving everyday folks paying higher price than they need to.

 Government support for local industry to increase capacity is important if we were to preach ‘buy local’ so price can be competitive. To final consumers, all that matters is value for their naira.

Quality education of all Groundnut Girls matter

Early Dec 2015, I came across a sensational news about a 14 year old Chineye Kenneth Agwu aka ‘Groundnut Girl’ whose photo was taken one evening around Apapa, Lagos doing her school homework under streetlight while tending her ware of groundnut.

The lady who took the photo was touched deeply, she thought every school child deserves better learning experience than what she saw – she took Chineye’s case to social media, people wanted to help, they wanted someone to search for Chineye so her story could be told to larger audience for bigger impact.

Here is what I read of the Groundnut Girl story:

  • She is one of six in the family and they all share one room
  • Father passed away
  • Family lives in one room
  • Mother sells roasted groundnut to stay afloat
  • Three of her siblings were not in school, Chineye attends public school in Lagos

A page was promptly set up to help fund Chineye education and financial help for her family. People donated generously to lift the family up and a few donors promised to fund Chineye and siblings education up to university level.

Lucky Chineye. I wish Chineye and family all the very best.

The lady who took the photo, Mosopefoluwa Odeseye’s action is commendable – sometimes it takes one person to be mindful, to see through the eye of a struggling child around.

I found many comments on this case very interesting, many read as if the commenters have been driving/walking around Lagos or indeed anywhere in Nigeria blindfolded given their surprise to the case of this young lady.

Why is this Groundnut Girl case so special that she attracted lots of sympathy from Nigerians? Chineye was lucky to be there at that time.

School children hawking in itself is a way of life in Nigeria for the 60% folks we rarely talk about, millions of school children do this daily.

Most of our mothers are traders, self-employed and indeed many are jack-of-all-trade (this is especially true of village women; they sell whatever is in season). Many city dwellers have shops in front of their own home to save on shop rent. Those who have shops outside of home expect their children to return after school to help with tending to customers.

Is hawking such a terrible chore for school children?

It all depends on how it is structured.

In my family the only persons hawking was one of my sisters and I because we are in the middle, that is our main chore on the weekend or during the week after school. We were exempted from other household chores the day we had to hawk around.

We never hawked at night, nor ever sat at a carpark. However, I know that a walk down any of our main road such as Mayfair – Idi Omo – Lagere and all the way to Sabo would provide anyone more than enough Groundnut Girls/Boys.

This is the reality of Nigeria.

It is this same Groundnut Girls and their family that are stuck in the rotten schools, our public schools. Not to be deceived, some of our private schools are not fit for humans but they are open regardless as they have their customers too.

But Chineye’s case was beyond lack of good school alone, she was outside late evening doing her homework because she probably had to be outside selling groundnut therefore killing two birds with one stone so to speak. Perhaps lack of electricity at home?

My intention isn’t to take away from the fact that Chineye deserved all the help and sympathy she had received, rather to highlight that as much as many of us are willing to help and many are doing this everyday, there is something fundamentally wrong that must be corrected.

It goes beyond one problem of family being poor, or lack of quality education alone – it is a web of several social issues tangled together.

This is a good template for people who had problems with ongoing investigation of corrupt public officials to munch on – even if it takes a whole presidential term to do thorough investigation, it is worth it to make sure stolen fund is returned so all the Groundnuts Girls/Boys in the land could get the best head start they deserve.

Ìléra loògùn ọrọ̀

Ìléra loògùn ọrọ̀ – Health is the medicine for wealth.

Except if one lives in the rural area where walking around to execute daily duties is part of the life style, Nigeria also working its way steadily to nation of overweight – this is most noticeable in the cities amongst office workers.

Our small towns is not spared, not when there is okada to transport folks from one end of the road to another with a small fee.

What is not common among the general public is awareness to the importance of physical health as well as implication of poor physical health on well being.

Lagos-mara
Credit: insidelagos

This is from Lagos Marathon earlier this month.  It is nice to see ordinary people taking part in ‘free for all’ activities such as this. it is about awareness that staying active and fit is crucial to good health.

GEJ
Credit: ekekeee

During the last presidential election Mr Jonathan did not carry last: Obviously, given family photos posted online, physical fitness isn’t priority in these guy’s family however it is nice to see them trying to pass on message.

Even down to my state of Osun, the state launched Walk to Live in the run up to elections last year.

Credit: Osun Defender
Credit: Osun Defender

I thought that was fantastic. Obviously someone somewhere is hammering it in to our people that the era of ‘fat is beautiful’ is obsolete, being over weight shortens our lifespan.

Hopefully, this trend will continue with less of Owanbe style and more of educating people on the benefits of staying active so it is easy to incorporate into daily routines.

I was self-conscious a couple of years ago learning to swim and to cycle as sometimes I want to do something different from jogging. I had thought I would be the oldest person ever to learn to swim and cycle as adult – how wrong was I?

Not swimming at the Olympic but learn enough that I no longer believe there’s Baba Olodo in the water to swallow me. Although wouldn’t be in Tour de France, but I know enough to add to the mix of exercise to keep me healthy and myths around Yoruba woman not cycling off my way.

It is nice to know that whatever the age, with a bit of determination we can join in the fun to keep mind and body healthy.

Traditionally, the bigger we are especially for women, the more beautiful we are supposed to be. Definition of beauty has changed – eating well and staying fit.

Living healthily is worth all the efforts, apparently it comes with feeling and looking well too, those are added bonus.

President Buhari caused a stir on Nigerians’ tainted reputation comment

President Buhari’s interview with the Telegraph was meant to provoke reactions, and it has achieved just that.

It is clear that President Buhari has issues with Nigerians denial about what is obvious – the fact that the nation’s image is tainted with the amount of criminal activities going on. We worked so hard to cover it up by presenting skewed image, but ‘aso ko ba omoye mo, omoye ti rin ‘hoho w’oja (cat is out of the bag).

The bits that get Nigerians upset:

“Some Nigerians claim is that life is too difficult back home, but then again some Nigerians have also made it difficult for Europeans and Americans to accept them because of the number of Nigerians in different prisons all over the world accused of drug trafficking or human trafficking…” PMB

Full interview here

I know PMB has a tough job and given his records I bet if the president was to be in a different time, most of the criminals will be in Kirikiri (prison) by now. Now his hands are tied, he has to work extra hard to prove that the goats indeed ate the yam – now is to digging out the goats’ guts for proof.

As a someone in diaspora I would have liked the president to acknowledge that despite the criminal activities that Nigerians are known for, – many Nigerians (most in fact) are normal everyday people working hard for their living in their respective host countries.

After all, less than two months ago Adewale Adeyemo (Wally), a Modakeke son was appointed as the Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics by President Obama in the USA. One does not get to such a position after prison release.

Apart from Mr Adewale Adeyemo, we have plenty of Nigerians in diaspora who are doing their bits everyday from road cleaners, tube workers to professionals in different fields contributing to Nigeria’s economy everyday from far away.

President Buhari would have preferred Nigerians abroad to stay at home and build the country together. Given we remitted $21B in 2013 alone – we are already doing our bits. Thank goodness for record keeping.

This is why I am not offended by the President’s statement because he was not talking about Nigerians who have not contributed to the tainted image of Nigeria.

Not once was any of my family members denied a visa of visit – my parents and a sister. If I have no proof of employment to support them during visits or them overstayed their visas, that wouldn’t have happened.

The name Nigeria undoubtedly arouse suspicions but each person works their way to show the other side of the story in their respective work and neighbourhood.

 

Here’s something for the president to help us with. Over the years I have come to realise that criminals exist in all countries but what sets Nigeria apart is our inability to follow through cases and indict criminals so we wail until a minor neighbourhood thief becomes global 419.

A good example of this is cultism in our schools. Students get killed in their hostels by cults, aka Black Axe. They steal and kill for any reason known to the group. Such as the case of Afrika and his mates in 1999 at OAU. Nigeria did nothing and pretended we could not fish out the criminals, now these guys (black Axe) are at large in Canada and all over Europe with stronger network.

President Buhari, when is Nigeria going to start dealing with our problem before it gets out of hand?

Who benefits from Made in Nigeria products?

Maybe in 10 years when infrastructure is in place; good roads, reliable transport system and electricity. When we are likely to have healthy competitions then ‘Made in Nigeria’ products could benefits ordinary people, I mean the 60% that live on less than $2 a day. As it stands today, any advocate for Made in Nigeria products have hidden agenda – they are about to ban something in order to monopolise the market.

Beneficiaries are always the smart next door countries, the customer officers, and the elected officials working from the inside to keep the unfair law intact.

In the 80s, most of the bags and shoes we buy from my area are mostly Aba Made which we were happy about but it also means there were less competitions and people pay price as given.

Thankfully we started having second hand ‘bend and select‘ shoes and bags from the west – by direct importation and other means, now prices stay where it should be in relative to quality.

Nigeria made or not – everyday people only benefit from low price when there is healthy competition. We can only boast of that when Nigeria fixes its infrastructure.

If we want to promote our goods and services, then work on putting infrastructure in place first, secure the borders and put appropriate tax system in place in the first instance not after the poor have been squeezed to oblivion.

On food – People at the lower end of the ladder have always eaten locally sourced food. It has been like that from the beginning of time. It is what they can afford.

I am not even sure Nigeria is in a situation to ban anything when we can barely produce enough. What other countries do is impose higher taxes on luxury goods such as alcohol, cigarette, designer goods etc.

On poultry and fish – history will not forget Baba Obasanjo on this one for raising tariffs to 70% during his presidency in the name of protecting local produce. What happens? The same old small number of overfed people gets richer. No way can the old man produce enough meat for the country’s population, so Benin (the smart one) opens their boarders to foreign companies so Nigerians can risk their lives crossing boarders to purchase the same meat that could have easily allowed to enter the country.

I hope ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo finishes his library and furnish it with good books – that may be the only good legacy he will leave behind.

On Arik – What would make me fly Arik Air ? Competitive prices, good customer service, consistent safety records and awareness to the country image i.e not taking bribes so another cocaine pusher slips some stuff through the staff into the aircraft:

“On Monday, Chika Udensi, a senior member of the Arik Air cabin crew‎, was arrested by UK Border Force officials with 20 kilogrammes of cocaine at Heathrow Airport in London.”  – Aug 27th 2015

 

We have seen this time and over again in Nigeria where local brands are elevated needlessly on essential goods and the only people that pays the high price are the poor Nigerians. Our cement industry is a good example of this.

If America were like Nigeria, Bill Gates would still have monopoly over computer software but they are of different breed (the case is available online where sensible people fought tooth and nail against BG monopoly in the early 2000) The result today is cheaper software prices and increased usage of computer all around the world – even BG is significantly better off.

Not in our case.

If you ban importation of staple foods, rich folks will continue to be able to afford it, the poor will pay higher price.

These senators advocating for ‘buy Nigeria made goods’ are not the problems I have come to realise – the problem are the people who refused to learn that the poor will be poorer if any ban or higher taxes is placed on essential goods. Can majority of Nigerians afford the same goods as these guys? The answer is no.

The main problem in Nigeria isn’t that we have importation of goods, our major problem is lack of infrastructure. Fix that.

 

Here is an illustrative graph from World Economic Forum (WEF). Nigeria is in red which means most Nigerians (the everyday folks) feel the impact of higher food prices the most. One of the reasons for this is our lack of infrastructure and bad policies i.e ban on things we can’t produce enough of which results in them being dumped in Benin for our people to pick up and in turn folks pay higher prices.

150901-CPI-inflation-food-prices-BI

Doctors’ industrial dispute

Lengthy strike action is no longer a big deal in Nigeria. Education and health sectors in the country pull the strings anytime they wish. I am all for people to voice out their grievances and ask for appropriate entitlement from the government, but the way industrial strike is done in Nigeria devoid any logic, one need not look too deep to see this.

This is about Osun state doctors. They have been on strike now going to five months. The question is, if a role is vacant for a whole five months, does one still feel indispensable?

Of recent, I have a change of heart regarding our doctors, they did incredible job at the teaching hospital to keep my mother alive and I am grateful for their handwork throughout my mother’s stay there.

About a year ago while with my sister, she received a text from a doctor reminding her of my mother’s checkup – I could not believe one could get such a ‘star’ treatment from a state clinic, that is commendable.

Now that is out of the way.

Why would anyone walk away from their job, then start a dialogue with the government? Why can’t they stay on the job, have delegates to work on the issue and if government turned deaf ear, then select a day to protest with advance warnings?

In Nigeria, quite a lot of our doctors have private practice, even since I was very little, people only go to government hospital for serious illness otherwise most people go to private clinics.

Osun doctors palaver:

On salary:

  • Started in August 2014, staff including doctors were owed up to 8 months salary. July 2015, the state received bailout from the federal government and decided to pay half salary.
  • By September 2015, doctors went on strike to show they are unhappy with half pay for full time work.
  • Ogbeni Aregbesola stopped paying salary altogether from November. This is only fair, why would anyone want to get paid when not working? I do not support owing salary and neither will I ever see any sense in demanding pay for months on end for no work.

Pension scheme:

Doctors are not sure that the governor is depositing their pension deductibles into appropriate accounts. Fair enough, this is a matter of transparency that need not five months off work to resolve. It is a pity that we don’t have a universal rule around pension.

Foreign doctors taking Nigerian jobs in Nigeria:

Doctors are apparently not happy that Governor Aregbesola is working together with Cuban doctors.

“You can imagine; how can a governor in 21st Century Nigeria, in a ‘change’ environment, bring people from Cuba to come and manage our health care system? Is he taking us back to the colonial days?”  Dr. Suraj Ogunyemi

I sense entitlement here, it goes to show rottenness of the industry. I wondered if Dr Ogunyemi knew the number of Nigeria trained doctors in diaspora, that is something to think about.

General public do not care where their doctors came from, as long as they get well is all that matters. And to be treated on the soil is more the better for everyone.

By the way, Cuba has incredible global medical record. I actually commend the governor for creating relationship with them – lots can be learned from their team.

While the talk about government owning salary is absolutely important to iron out, government both at the state and federal level need to put an end to this attitude of professionals demanding pay for idle days. Why should anyone feel entitled to the job they walked away from for months?

On government owing salary – It is just plain wrong and counter-productive. This is one of the reasons our education and health systems are in shambles. When salaries are not paid, morale is low, people seek alternative income and still count on them been paid regardless of the length they were home for.

Eventually, the docs will return to work, get paid, the most affected people remain the same – the general public.

Àrùn Ọpọlọ

At innocent age of 10 (if not earlier) in Nigeria, most children would easily say boldly that the ‘madman’ down the road offended some witches in the village hence he has ‘turned’ crazy or that the half naked lady with mental health issue is so because she jilted her boyfriend so he casts ‘crazy’ spell on her (this one gets the ladies every single time so they stay in abusive relationship for the fear of spell).

Of all the reasons people give to avoid understanding mental health issues, the above I believe are parts of the major contributing factors that prevented us from showing a bit of interest towards understanding mental health issues.

I enjoyed this piece by John Green, the author of the The Fault In Our StarsThe quote below sums up what I have learnt from observing my nephew living with bipolar. 

“The metaphors we most often employ when discussing disease—that it is an enemy to defeat, or a hurdle to jump and put behind us—don’t really apply to chronic illness. Instead, you live with it. You get better. You get worse. You get better again.” John Green

Mental health issue is something I grow up learning to pray against that ‘God, may I not have mental health problem in my life’ ‘Ọlọrun, ma je k’ori mi daru l’aye mi’ 

My understanding of mental health problem used to be that of an illness that can be wished or cast upon someone, at the same token can be wished or cast away.

In the 80’s there used to be a man probably in his 40’s lived at a burial ground in Mayfair, Ife. The burial ground is adjacent to the road that leads to Universal Tutorial College (now university I heard). His name was Lati. Everyone knew him as Lati Were (Lati the crazy one). He is usually clothed but can be quite aggressive. He had dàda (dreads) on his head due to years of untouched locks so the hair was just matted.

His preferred route was walking from Mayfair all the way to Teaching Hospital then back. There are hundreds of shops on both sides of the road even at that time – Mayfair, Idiọmọ, Lagere, Ọja tuntun, Sabo, then teaching hospital; all these spots were areas where Lati begged for food or snatched if he so wishes.

There are a couple of long term mental health sufferers in town, Lati was one, then Eli Were (Elizabeth the crazy). Eli’s case was eye-opening. People called her Were yet she is pregnant almost every year and the child taken away from her immediately after birth, this is the time she is most upset and would cry down Alapata and Akarabata roads for weeks on end – cruel, cruel world we live in.

I only started thinking something is odd with the way we define mental health problem in Nigeria shortly after I left home. And since then it is just hard to take anyone who believes people who suffer from mental health illness deserves to live on the road seriously on any subject.

To come back to Lati Were. One day in the mid 90’s, there were talk in town that his family came from out of town, brought nice clothes (they must have been watching him to know his calm days.) They whizzed him away.

People were happy for Lati Were. Now thinking about it, I really do hope he responded to treatment and now living a full life.

With technology we learn more about different mental health spectrum: Bipolar, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder etc – all of these are often lumped up together in Nigeria. Even someone with depression can easily be pushed out of the house to be dropped on the streets of a big city where she would not bring shame to the family.

Like most things it will be hard to change everyone’s views on mental health illness at the same time but at least those who can read can learn that Nigeria is not isolated – that mental health illness cuts across race and class – so we can learn more about how best to relate to family, friend or the man on the road in the way that would not add to the challenges they are already facing.

In southwest, I heard UCH Ibadan has the best Psychiatric ward for both adults and children – even directing folks here is one way of helping humanity.