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Nick Nick

Street Outreach • Sierra Leone • 2022
“I decided to join my friends who hustled on the street to make ends meets. I left home to come on the street to find help for my future.” Nick Nick

For girls and women who live on the streets, getting their period can add another complexity to their daily lives. Struggles can include finding a safe and private place to change their sanitary protection, having clean water to wash in or even accessing sanitary products in the first place that aren’t old bits of clothing.

After just over two years on the streets of Freetown, Sierra Leone, 17-year-old Nick Nick has recently started attending activities with Toybox’s partner, Saint George Foundation (SGF), in the country, who’ve been supporting young women and girls on the streets to make their own reusable sanitary towels in a bid to make their periods a little safer and easier to handle.

Here, she shares her story, in her own words – explaining how she ended up on the streets and how learning about periods has changed her approach to this time of the month for her.

Free on the streets of Freetown?

"When my mother separated from my father, as a girl child I found it difficult to live with my father and it’s was also difficult for my father to provide with all my needs. My father was traumatized by mum’s departure and there was no one to help me, so I decided to join my friends who hustled on the street to make ends meets. I left home to come on the street to find help for my future.

I am selling bread to make money. I normally collect bread from bakery to sell and get a percentage of total sales from the baker. There are many challenges for children on the streets here, they are numerous, ranging from sexual, physical and emotional abuse, domestic violence against girls and boys, lack of access to health and education services, discrimination, injustice… I thought I’d find the dream on the streets but there is just a rift of abuse."

Back to education

One day, when I was approached by one of the SGF’s social workers, they mentioned to me about going to school, straight off I recollected in my mind that education will be only solution that will change my life and I became more excited to be part of project. There I learn catering skills and get counselling from the staff. I’ve also learned how to do beadwork at the drop-incentre. I can now do my own beads and sell for survival. I do beads on slippers and bags. I have also learned to make raffia bags to sell.

“I love the participatory aspect of the project: I have been included in the planning of most of the activities particularly the awareness-raising activities on menstrual hygiene of which we have been leading on.” Nick Nick

Leading the way for menstrual hygiene

"Myths about periods in my community are common. Things like girls on their period shouldn’t prepare cake, beans acara, and butter scoots because people believe if you do, it will go bad… That men should not talk to their daughters or sisters about menstruation. It is also believed that witches use menstrual pads to harm people. That’s why I used to dispose mine into the sea.

Prior to the project, I saw my period as a challenge and added burden to me, because it was difficult to buy menstrual pads. I had idea about using traditional care for my period, or just using cotton to prevent blood from dripping.

Now though, I normally use disposable sanitary pads which I get from the pharmacy. I feel comfortable using them but it’s challenging to get due to the cost – and you have to change them frequently which is disturbing. Now I dispose of them at the dumpsites around the community.

Getting the protective menstrual products and period pain is the hardest thing about getting my period. When I have intense period pains or can’t get protection, I sometimes miss out on work and school – most of the time I just sleep a lot. I do have access to toilets and water for when I’m on my period but they are not safe.

At the project, I have learned how to make my menstrual pads through the training from the drop-in centre. I now also have enough knowledge of proper menstrual hygiene practices and I will advise other women and girls to practise proper menstrual hygiene during their period and to speak to people about periods so it’s never a taboo. Now I feel safe and secure on my period. I have enough education this topic.

If I were the President of my country, I’d support rural and slum girls with proper education on menstrual hygiene and also embark on free sanitary pad distribution to all girls in schools and villages. Being a woman is not a choice therefore menstruation is not a choice. I will therefor advise everyone to support girls and not discriminate against them because of their periods."

“In the future, I want to be a professional medical nurse. I’m learning catering skills now so that I will be able to raise money to support my nursing career too.” Nick Nick

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