A few days ago, this article by Ayomide Odekanyan went viral on the internet. It was about the deplorable conditions inmates, especially minors who had not been convicted of any crimes were forced to live at the maximum security prison at Badagry in Lagos state. It is a deeply troubling read that chronicles how children, some of whom were arrested for hawking were literally living in squalor without access to the most vital of resources, potable water for drinking and bathing. The article tells of workers at the prison talking about how children regularly die at the prison from preventable diseases, their lives turned disposable by a government that prefers to keep up appearances and remand system burdened beyond its capacity.
That same day I read about the Federal Prisons System in the United States being forced by a new law to ensure that all women incarcerated within the prison system have access to a variety of sanitary care products (tampons and pads of different sizes and capacities) to meet their individual needs. The new Act makes the provision of sanitary care to incarcerated woman a basic right and eases the problems of women who have to struggle to find the right sanitary care products for them in such restricted spaces.
These two contrasts gave me a lot to think about. The fact that I have my freedom and can walk into any store or pharmacy and purchase sanitary products is a luxury I didn’t quite grasp until I read both accounts. The average Nigerian girl of school going age has little to no access to funds to regularly purchase sanitary pads. Many girls miss school because of it, some drop out. And even those girls have far more privilege, the privilege of being able to even access sanitary care. If in the average Nigerian men’s prison, boys are dying of communicable and easily preventable diseases like Cholera and dysentry because of lack of access to potable water, one can only imagine the near insurmountable challenges the average woman in prison undergoes.
Sanitary care should be an alienable right, especially for women who cannot access it themselves. The non-profit Sanitary Care for Nigerian Girls (SANG) is doing some fantastic work getting sanitary care to school age girls and women in IDP’s, but with your help they can expand their outreach to include incarcerated women. Please visit their website here and donate whatever you can, it goes a long, long way.