Oghenekaro Omu: The Female Health Advocate
There are many conversations held globally and locally on women’s rights. Some discuss these rights and others take the conversation further, transforming words into action and impact.
Karo Omu is one of those people who take it further with her non-governmental organisation Sanitary Aid for Nigerian Girls, which provides free sanitation items for women and young girls.
In 2017, Omu observed that the recession had exponentially increased the price of women’s sanitary products by 100%, precluding impoverished women from acquiring them. Omu started her NGO to help meet this gap, seeing as there were no government programs to help women in this capacity.
Through her work, she has assisted over 8000 girls across seven states in Nigeria. Her work places her at the centre of the fight for women’s rights and health and makes her story worth sharing.
Guardian Life caught up with Omu to discuss her NGO and her future plans for the foundation.
There are many gaps in women’s rights and women’s health. What attracted you to this particular need?
The ever-increasing prices of sanitary hygiene products made it quite clear that we need to ensure the vulnerable girls and women around us are armed with products and education.
How do women respond when you hand out sanitary pads?
They are happy that people remember them. More importantly, they are happy to learn. For some of them, the packs of pads we hand them are the first they have owned.
Do you think sanitary items would be subsidised or made more accessible if men had periods?
I want to be cheeky and say yes, but it is really beside the point. As a Nigerian, there are many gaps where we want the government to be and there are many policies we constantly hope they will tackle, but they don’t.
I think sanitary hygiene products should be very affordable and at best free everywhere. It is also important that the conversation reaches the top offices in the country.
What are your views on equality and female empowerment in Nigeria? Have things improved?
I believe men and women should have economic, political and social equality. It is simple. It improves our society when women are empowered and their labour valued, and we have a more functional society. The major improvement is that we are talking about gender equality in open spaces.
Every kind of woman needs different things and there are different gaps to be filled: child marriage, female genital mutilation, marital rape and issues affecting the girl child.
What are the future plans for the foundation? Are you embarking on any other projects?
We plan to grow the initiative to reach every part of the country, especially as regards sanitary hygiene education and period positivity.
As a women’s health advocate, do you see yourself going into the political sphere in the future?
Honestly, I do not. I believe I have found what I want to do and it is simply to make the lives of women, children and people in low-income situations better in my little way. I enjoy this so much and believe I could do this forever.