For some in Ottawa, getting the products they need to manage their monthly menstrual cycles can be difficult.
So, to help, people are organizing vintage product donation campaigns as a way to bridge the gap between government programs and vulnerable people.
Meghan White and Lauren Cauchy launched menstrual packs three years ago when White started donating sanitary pads to mark International Women’s Day. Today, the organization supplies approximately 450 people with enough products to manage their cycles each month.
“I was appalled and shocked at what I learned about what is going on here in Canada, regarding menstruation management, education and access to products,” White said.
A Plan Canada study showed that 23 percent of respondents had struggled to afford vintage products at some point.
The study also found that periods are a barrier to societal participation and a source of anxiety for many periods. He pointed out that not having access to sanitary napkins and tampons can prevent some young menstruation from going to school for days, or lead to feelings of shame.
Jessica, a resident of Old Ottawa East who requested that her last name not be released for confidentiality reasons, said she continued to have difficulty accessing menstrual products during her teenage years due to the cost. and stigma.
Jessica started having her period when she was 12 years old. Some women in her life were able to give her the period products she needed at first, but later struggled to ask her single dad for them.
“A friend’s mother bought me a whole bunch. And so usually I took them through that. … Then I was able to buy them myself, ”she said. “It was always a challenge … because you don’t have a lot of money.”
She said she was anxious about being taken without period products when she needed it.
“I was embarrassed,” she added. “When I started to have my period [I got] taken more frequently in precarious situations.
White and Cauchy rely on community support for donations to Periodic Packs, which Ottawans can drop off at seven drop-off points around the city.
Period Packs, alongside Moon Time Sisters and the Ottawa Food Bank, provide products for as many periods as possible.
White said Period Packs also works to promote menstrual equity in other ways.
“We couldn’t throw pads and tampons in a black hole forever,” she said.
Period Packs creates a YouTube channel with local youth focused on menstrual education. In March, the organization launched a pilot project with the City of Ottawa to deliver vintage products to municipal facilities.
White said the government’s recognition holds promise for the future of menstrual equity.
The Ministry of Education announced on Oct. 8 that it will partner with Shoppers Drug Mart to provide period products to Ontario schools.
The plan, which outlines the distribution for the 2021-2022 school year, complements pre-existing government and community programs.
“We encourage school boards, school authorities and consortia to continue to address menstrual poverty by supplementing this offering where possible,” the plan says. The ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
Although they say it’s a good step, many menstruation and community organizers say it’s not enough.
White said the gendered language surrounding menstruation, the allocation of pads and tampons (which equates to about 10 pads per student who menstruates) and the exclusion of Métis and Inuit schools mean the plan is not as effective. as the promoters claim.
White added that more collaboration between local organizations and the province is needed to achieve menstrual equity.
“I like that menstrual equity is on the agenda. I love that we talk about it, ”she said. “I think it’s a shame that [the province] I did not speak to the people who are already working to fix this, because I think they could have learned a lot. “
Sarah Chun, a former school trustee with the Thames Valley District School Board in London, Ont., And a pioneer of the pilot program that inspired the ministry’s periodic equity plan, says there is still work to be done.
“Yes [access to products] stop [menstruators] to get their education or to access public spaces is a need that the government and our society must meet, ”said Chun.