It is estimated that the average menstruator uses up to 15,000 pads and tampons in their lifetime. Yet, among more than 8.9 million Canadians who have periods, Plan International Canada found that one in five will struggle to access these products—products that are critical for not only health and hygiene, but—according to women’s health advocates—for dignity and upward mobility.
What is Period Poverty?
Period poverty is the struggle to access menstrual products, as well as the lack of nearby handwashing facilities and waste management. It’s a health crisis that affects 500 million people around the world, and is known to perpetuate a vicious cycle that exacerbates educational barriers and limits the ability to participate in daily life.
This is especially felt by young menstruators, who may miss school as a result of not having period protection. Being deprived of a full, quality education may then make them less likely to graduate, and therefore less likely to attain a job that enables them to pull themself out of a cycle of poverty.
In Canada, one in seven students will miss school each year because they don’t have access to period products. “This can put young people’s confidence, dignity and education at risk,” says Elizabeth Dubejsky, brand director for Always Canada. “And even if they can participate, [without regular access to menstrual products] they are likely going to feel distracted and unable to focus on reaching their full potential.”
What’s being done to end Period Poverty?
Since the launch of its #EndPeriodPoverty campaign in 2018, aimed at driving awareness for period poverty in Canada, Always has donated over 10 million period products to schools across Canada. “Always is a trusted and known brand within the period space, and we have a platform and the resources to bring awareness to this issue and to make change,” says Dubejsky.
Now, Shoppers Drug Mart, in partnership with Always and the Manitoba provincial government, will donate another nearly 10 million period products and 900 product dispensers to school divisions, independent schools and social service agencies across Manitoba over the course of three years. A similar initiative was launched last year alongside the Ontario Ministry of Education, with Shoppers Drug Mart, Always and other manufacturers, providing six million menstrual products to public schools in a three-year pledge to donate a total of 18 million products and 1,200 product dispensers.
Wayne Ewasko, Manitoba’s minister of education and early childhood learning, says this is one step towards building more inclusive learning environments and is expected to lead to improvements in student engagement and well-being. “Students in Manitoba deserve to feel comfortable going to school knowing they have access to free menstrual products when they need it, without barriers or stigma,” said Ewasko.
Why is it so important to normalise talking about periods?
Accessibility to menstrual products is difficult to address when it’s shrouded in stigma and shame for so many, despite the fact that 26 per cent of the global population menstruates, according to Unicef. Research from Always and Plan International Canada found that 83 per cent of young people in Canada have tried to hide the fact they are on their period, and 50 per cent have lied about it.
Although Always’ commitment to delivering essential menstrual care products is a step in the right direction “menstruation is still seen as a taboo subject, which means dialogue around access to period products is often avoided,” Dubejsky says.
Ending period poverty involves collaboration between businesses, retailers and government bodies, adds Dubejsky, but it can start at the consumer level, too. In addition to supporting socially responsible brands, individuals can donate period products to local charities and food banks, as well as become an advocate for greater accessibility of menstrual care.
“We need to work as a society to strive for menstrual equality, break down stigmas and do what we can—however big or small—to end period poverty,” Dubejsky says.
To learn more about how you can help #EndPeriodPoverty in your community, visit Always.com.