Across the world, menstruators are ostracized when they have their period because of the stigma and shame attached to this simple biological process. 1 in every 7 girls in Canada have missed school because of a lack of access to menstrual products. This is known as “period poverty”. Period poverty is the lack of access to menstrual products, menstrual hygiene education and clean facilities. This is the devastating and isolating reality of many women.
In most countries, toilet paper and soap are offered in public places, schools and workplaces because it is considered a basic necessity. Period products should be treated in the same way, as they too are hygiene necessities. Period poverty is prevalent around the world but does not have much attention because of the stigma around menstruating. This shame is preventing this issue from gaining the publicity and action it needs. Nevertheless, there are many groups working towards shedding light on period poverty and taking steps to combat its devastating effects.
The Period Promise Campaign of the United Way is a project here in Vancouver tackling period poverty. The goal of this campaign is to engage the community to do their part in the promise of ending period poverty. The campaign started in 2017 with a movement called “Tampon Tuesday”. That year, the United Way collected over 30,000 individual menstrual products for their community agencies in the Lower Mainland. The following year, 220,000 products were collected, 7 times more than the previous annum! The Tampon Tuesday movement soon evolved into the Period Promise Campaign.
Last year, the United Way worked closely with the government of British Columbia to make menstrual products available in schools. As of December 2019, all BC public schools are required to provide free period products in school bathrooms. This is incredible progress that will change the lives of many young menstruators. BC Education Minister Rob Fleming said, “Students should never have to miss school, extracurricular, sports or social activities because they can’t afford or don’t have access to menstrual products. This is a common-sense step forward that is, frankly, long overdue.” The United Way will continue to work with the government to ensure the success of this initiative and make sure it continues to be a priority. Despite this amazing progress, there is still much to be done. The upcoming month of March is the biggest campaigning month for Period Promise. If you are interested, please hold an event in your community to raise awareness and collect products for this important cause.
Women should not have to worry about whether they have food on the table, or products for their next period. I believe that with the efforts of the Period Promise
campaign and various other progressive organizations, change will ensue and the lives of menstruators will forever be transformed.