Books Magazine

Conversation with Pamela Elakwachi

By Biolaephesus60 @biolaephesus

I remeber in myyoung days, discussing your mentrual circle was seenas good manners. Your mother never even called it a menstrueal cycle. She simple asked you ifyou had see your cloth or time. When I was much younger, I will wonder what she meant. Your time or cloth gave the wholeidea of a menstrual cycle a womanly secrecy. We felt funny. When I got intosecondary school, it was globally seen as the curse. Don’t start me off on the dozen or morenames we called that time ofthe month, you hated. The question was never you wanted to discussit with the male folk except when you waited for your father to killl the cockerel to welcome you into an age. It was initiation with a beauty and secrecy that made you feelnot just a woman but understanding the responsibilities attached to attaining puberty. It was an age we seemto have lost. It is a different thing here. The questionthen was not if we could afford the process of ‘looking after our monthly visitor as we also calledit then. Today, I am talking to a young beautiful woman…not about her monthly visitor orthe curse,,,but about something altogether interesting for me. Please meet my firiend

Pamela Elkwachi

Conversation with Pamela Elakwachi

You are a Toastmaster, please explain what that means

Toastmasters International is an educational organization that has helped people from

 diverse backgrounds become more confident  speakers, communicators, and leaders.

 I was drawn to them after I came across the beautifully crafted and coruscating speech of

the winner of the 2018 World Championship of Public Speaking – Ramona J. Smith; and I went,

“I want to learn how to speak  like that!”.

 The rest they say is history and my first Toastmasters meeting was my last as a guest at

Sunshine Toastmasters Club Akure. I became a Toastmaster in my quest to polish

my communication skills towards becoming a better leader that galvanises action for change.

 I am currently a club officer and serve as Vice President Public Relations for

Sunshine Toastmasters Club. 

With the viral videos of blundering public officers making the rounds, I advise that we

 don’t have to wait till we are at the peak of  our careers or positions of power to start

learning these skills; investing in one’s personal development should always

be given  top priority. 

2. I am curious about the bead/bracelet story. 

Yes. That’s  a simple yet powerful symbol for World Menstrual Hygiene Day

coming up on 28th of May. Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) is a global platform that

 brings together non-profits, government agencies, individuals, the private sector and the

media to catalyze advocacy and action towards a world where women and girls are

longer limited  because of their periods.

It’s a menstrual bracelet made with 23 white beads and 5 red beads to signify the average

 28 days cycle of periods. 28/5 is also May 28. People are encouraged to make them

wear them and post the pictures on their social media handles with the  hashtag

MHDAY2021 to show support that periods are nothing to hide, end period stigma and

advocate for increased access  and affordability of menstrual hygiene products

 for women and girls around the world.

I am impressed by your comment at a recent lecture of yours whereby you implored the

menfolk to show understanding of  the reproductive health of girls. Please explain.

This is a missing link that hasn’t been given much attention as women and girls need to

feel supported on this issue. Men who should be allies usually do not have enough

information on the issue to properly lend a hand. Advocating for equal  education

for women and girls, men and boys will ensure that at all stages of life, women and

girls will find supportive partners  who can empathise with their situation and render the

necessary support or assistance if it comes to that. The stigma and bullying that

also comes from boys or men especially on the subject of menstruation eg ergh ewwww’s

and snide comments that make women/girls treat their periods with utmost secrecy will

 be drastically reduced.

The goal is that girls and women can  confidently ask for help from menfolk and

 avoid using unhygienic products or poor sanitation infrastructure at the expense

of asking for help.

4. Organizations round the world find it funny that developing countries hardly pay

heed to the economic need to ensure the average young girl can afford a sanitary

towel when the need arises. How can we resolve this?

There needs to be the political will on the path of the government to prioritise

action towards this cause at local and National levels. The Government should

work on creating an enabling environment for investment in this sector to produce

 affordable menstrual hygiene products. The condition and standard of existing WASH

facilities in schools, workplaces and public places must be reviewed because this is

 an essential element of MHM. You can’t imagine the struggle women go through

and all the opportunities they miss because they cannot comfortably manage their periods

outside of their homes.

The cost of menstrual products keeps rising especially since covid. Pads are taxed like

e luxury items instead of being treated as a necessity and human right.

Condoms are shared freely while a normal biological process is not given the attention

 it deserves. MHM is related to SDG’s and is also a Human Right

Ministries of health need to spend development budget on MHM. Some countries

even in developing economies already have National policies on Menstrual

Hygiene and Health Management especially for school girls. Items such as

menstrual products should be subsidised or provided free to school girls as

implemented in some countries; this will ensure they do not miss out on school

 and social activities. Investment need to be made in innovation, research and public

education on the issue in addition to supporting the work of NGO’s and private citizens. 

A lot of work is ahead but the decision makers are the ones that need to be made

aware of the magnitude of the problem  before it can be resolved.

5. Please let us know why you started the GirlON Project?

In line with the MHDay goals, the concept of the GirlOn Project was born when

I was celebrating my birthday in 2019.

I came across a twitter post where discussions on the unimaginable state of menstrual

hygiene for girls living in rural communities.

 The use of old rags and unthinkable unhygienic items for their periods, their exclusion

from social activities of their communities when they were on their periods and the

 high cost of pads, tampons and the likes which was even a struggle for working women

to purchase. Some heartbreaking studies even show some girls engage in

 transactional sex just to be able to purchase these products.

The GirlON Project focuses on empowering girls with information on menstrual

hygiene education to promote menstrual hygiene management, end period stigma, advocate

for affordable hygienic products & increase its access to girls in rural communities. We started

by raising pad donations for girls and then realising that the menstrual education was

more important. Our outreach covered 4 secondary schools in Ipele, Owo, Uso and Ogbese

communities in Ondo State and reached 1200 girls. In 2020 we went virtual due to covid-19

and this year we are collaborating with the Office of the Wife of Ondo State Governor,

Betty-Anyanwu Akeredolu Foundation (BAAF) and BEMORE Empowered Foundation

 to mark the MH Day for 2021.

6. How do you plan to extend the concept of The GirlOn Project? 

For now, we are focusing on Menstrual Health and Hygiene for girls as we work

within our funding constraints. I actively work with young girls and as an HR

Professional passionate about personal and career development for girls and

women in general, Girl ON-Education, Girl ON-Personal Finance, Girl ON-Leadership,

Girl ON-Investment, and Girl ON-Entrepreneurship are all  avenues that would be

expanded and explored in the future.

7. I find today’s generation is more interested in making money, why did you decide on

improving our understanding of the menstrual cycles of young person’s?

Trust me, I very much believe in making money… you should ask my friends. But I sort of

have a different concept of money.

 I believe the best things in life are free and giving value and memorable experiences

that one can learn and grow from is

more empowering. 

I believe that this information empowered me when I was younger, the schools cannot

do everything. I recall an NGO visiting my secondary school and speaking on a topic I

no longer quite remember. I know it was impactful because at that age, one is very  

impressionable and their words stuck with me for a long time. I want young people to

 have good interactions and experiences  that will stay with them even if they don’t

 remember who I am. As adults, we must commit to giving young people a better experience

instead of focusing on their shortcomings especially if they don’t know better. Though there

 are other causes I lend my voice to, such as Breast Cancer and Childhood Cancer;

MHM is one of the causes I choose due to its long lasting effect on the lives of girls

and women. I hope each person finds theirs and does the bit that contributes to

the drop that makes an ocean.

8. In our society, discussion on the reproductive health of young persons particularly

about the different health issues of the menstrual cycle is usually not discussed openly,

 how do you think we can overcome this hang up.

Women and girls have to be willing to end the shyness and shame associated with

discussing such topics within themselves before stepping out of the room to discuss

them in public. Persistent stigma, cultural myths and taboos have done a number on us.

We are ready to stop hiding in the shadows and suffering in silence. This has not been the

trend, but whenever one wakes up is their morning. Right?

I’ve been seeing hilarious Tiktok videos on menstrual cramp simulators being used on men

and then alternatively used on women. The men are writhing in pain while the women

 are like “this feels like a mild cramp”. So the conversations are now in public 7spaces

 which is a good sign.

Programs like that of BEMORE Empowered Foundation targeting young girls with

 impactful life skills ranging from ICT, solar training, health awareness, and menstrual

hygiene among others should be encouraged. I also know a young man actively  working on educating young people in reproductive health and related issues- Nathan Akatakpo of Peregrine House of Hope operating in  Lagos.

Many others are personally invested in contributing their quota to fill the misinformation

gap which is leading  our youths to calamity. It’s not a one day thing but constant

 advocacy will help in the long run.

Conversation with Pamela Elakwachi

9. So many issues are associated with lack of proper leadership. Why do you think leadership is important and how can one get the requisite experience to lead effectively in the future especially for young people.

Like i said earlier, most people are waiting to become leaders without any preparation in place; folding their hands and waiting for it to be given on platter of gold. When they eventually get a seat at the table, they are not able to function properly because the foundation is not strong enough to carry their new responsibilities. 

I advise people to see leadership as a daily activity. If there’s a conversation? contibute! if something needs to be done? take a stand and do it! if you are not clear about something? Ask! Let’s stop waiting around for a messiah; nobody is coming to save us. Doing some heavy lifting may be an inconvinece now, but we learn by doing and making mistakes along the way.

The moment i found my voice, i knew it would be in injustice not to share my perspective and offer value to people within my sphere of influence. I currently serve in several roles in different organisations; Catholic Womens Organisation in my church and Old School Alumni; General Secretary for Ondo State Branch of Chartered Institute of Personnel Management Nigeria(CIPM); National Editor for Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria; Executive Secretary for Brendan Obioha Childhood Cancer Foundation (BOCCF) in addition to VP PRO of Sunshine Toastmasters Club.

Having an attitude of service means you will get more opportunities to learn and become a better version of yourself.

10. Thank you for your patience and understanding, how may we reach you for further


It was an honor  having this conversation with a veteran broadcaster such as you.  I can be

 reached on linkedin  

email [email protected] and twitter @pamzy_el. 

To follow our MHM activities follow of TheGirlOn Project; @thegirlonproject

(Facebook, Instagram), Twitter @girlonproject.

Thank you very much, Danke

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