One third of Canadian women under the age of 25 years live in period poverty. This is defined as not being able to afford menstrual products. In Charlottetown alone, there are over 400 women who live in period poverty.
It is estimated women spend approximately 6 years of their lives menstruating. This is a natural process a woman’s body goes through, yet it remains a stigma and huge barrier for many women. Many are too embarrassed to leave their homes when they are on their period because they do not have menstrual products.
I was mortified
I remember last summer when I was getting ready to walk in a parade. I ducked into a pharmacy (how ironic) to use the washroom and much to my horror I had started my period. I had no money on me to buy a tampon or pad. I was in a rush and the pharmacy was busy. I was mortified. I improvised.
How many times have we as women found ourselves without menstrual products at inconvenient moments? For many of us, this is an embarrassing inconvenience that we know as very temporary. Others are not so lucky and this remains a huge barrier and worry for them on a monthly basis.
Removing the stigma surrounding menstruation
For women living in poverty, improvising is a norm, a way of life. Many will stay home from work and other activities when they are not able to obtain menstrual products. This affects them in ways that often prevents them from reaching their full potential.
There is a critical need for leadership in this area. Politicians, policy makers and advocacy groups must be involved in these discussions. We must understand the stigma that is associated with menstruation and the effect that these can have on women of all ages. If we do not understand these stigmas, if we do not talk about them and try to truly understand them, how will we ever prioritize women’s health?
Help End Period Poverty
In the meantime, I want to highlight an amazing and important campaign taking place throughout February. ‘Taking Care of Women’s Business. Period.’ is a 28-day campaign headed up the Prince Edward Island Women’s Institute. Its goal is to help stock the shelves of PEI food banks with tampons and pads for women. This is a campaign about basic human dignity. It is a campaign about gender equity. Hygiene products are not a luxury. They are not optional. They are a necessity.
Please join me and other people across PEI in supporting this campaign. You can drop off your donation of pads, tampons and Diva Cups at any Murphy’s Pharmacy location across PEI. You can also donate at the Mainstreet Pharmasave in Souris. For more information on how you can help support this great campaign, please visit the campaign Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/28DayCampaign/.
Karla Bernard (MLA District 12 Charlottetown-Victoria Park) is the Official Opposition Critic for the Status of Women.