It’s estimated that around 800 million people live in period poverty globally. Flo Haven is a non-profit organisation that aims to eradicate period poverty in Nigeria. Their goal is to empower those affected by this issue through the provision of menstrual health education and increasing access to sustainable, eco friendly period products, with a view to eradicating period poverty worldwide. We spoke to founder Tara Akindele to find out more about her important work.
Hello! Please can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Tara and I am a biomedical science graduate. I am passionate about women's health particularly in the area of menstrual equity. My degree in biomedical science definitely helped me in understanding human physiology and the effects of poor menstrual health in women and girls.
For those who aren’t familiar with Flo Haven, can you explain the background to the charity and its goals?
Flo Haven is a non-profit organisation that advocates for menstrual equity and the provision of menstrual health education to the underprivileged girls in Nigeria. The charity’s vision is to eradicate period poverty and the stigma attached to menstruation in Nigeria.
I flew back to Nigeria sometime in March 2020, and had only planned on staying a week. But due to the coronavirus, my short, one-week trip turned into a yearlong stay. During my stay, I read an article in Punch Newspaper about period poverty, and how large of an issue it is in Nigeria. The article spoke about how some women and girls in underprivileged communities use palm tree leaves as a substitute to period pads to hold their blood. This made me burdened with sadness, and re-ignited my passion to help solve the issue of period poverty.
I immediately went into different communities to speak to women and girls in order to get a better understanding on the issue of period poverty in Nigeria and created a short documentary (see below). Thereafter, I volunteered for a charitable foundation that worked with women and girls to provide them with menstrual products.
However, not long after, I took the initiative to start my own in December 2020: Flo Haven. Flo Haven is a play on the word “LOVE”. We believe in spreading love to communities through provision of eco-friendly menstrual products as well as menstrual health education. We also believe in having a sustainable impact on these communities.
How can period poverty negatively affect someone’s life physically, and mentally?
Physically speaking, period poverty can lead to a person’s body developing infections and injury in or around their reproductive area. The lack of clean, safe menstrual products causes menstruators to try and use anything they can to care for the blood, such as found newspapers, discarded cloths, and socks - which are unhygienic means.
Mentally, period poverty can negatively impact a person’s wellbeing and confidence. Being subjected to worry and discomfort every month because one cannot afford basic necessities is an issue. Depression, refusal to go to school, and low self-esteem are all results of an individual’s position within the period of poverty setting.
When you visit schools in Nigeria to talk about menstrual health, what reaction do you get from students (and teachers)?
Majority of them are always keen and eager to learn. For example, not many schools teach a curriculum on how to use other menstrual products apart from disposable pads because they don't have access to it. From our recent outreach we conducted a survey and found that none of the girls at the school had ever heard of menstrual cups and tampons including the teachers. This reinforces the notion that period poverty is a prevalent issue that needs to be addressed in order to provide access to products as well as menstrual health education to ensure that no one is put at a disadvantage because they don't have access to period products.
Why is it so important to start (and sustain) conversations around periods, and how can this help tackle period poverty?
When more conversations about periods happen and continue, period shame can disappear. With the absence of period shame, more care and validity in what many advocates and organisations are trying to achieve can actually happen: free menstruation products and resources for all.
How can reusable period products help alleviate period poverty, and are there any barriers to trying to popularise these products in Nigeria?
Reusable items are always cost-efficient in the long run. Additionally, if someone isn’t
able to easily travel to a store every so often for new period products, the reusable items can ensure that they would have what they need for a long term rather than a short-term duration.
There is a slight barrier to popularise these products in Nigeria because there are still
existing period barriers to purchase regular products such as pads and tampons. These items are not widely available nor are they a priority in locations like the schools. Part of our goal is to not only provide tampons and pads to menstruators, but to also open up access to reusable items so that menstruators have a more sustainable option to care for their periods.
What is your proudest achievement so far with Flo Haven?
Being able to impact communities. It is always great to hear that because of our initiative a girl is able to stay in school and not feel like their education is being compromised because of their period.
What long-term goals do you have for Flo Haven?
To end period stigma in Nigeria and provide sustainable ways to end period poverty in communities. To provide adequate hand washing and toilet facilities for girls and women in the community as a big part of period poverty in Nigeria is linked to not having adequate water supply or facilities to use.
Finally if someone wants to support Flo Haven, how can they get involved?
All interested individuals are welcome to reach out to us via Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter by messaging us directly or they can fill out our Volunteer Form found in our bios within these socials. We also have a website for more info on the work we do. We have a variety of positions where people can help out, such as creating designs and graphics, writing menstruation pieces for us, raising money in their own communities for our cause, donating eco-friendly period products to us or supporting our pages by liking, following, and sharing our posts. Any form of support helps!