Photo credit: Vulvania
Why I joined The Period Purse.
I have long been passionate about sexual health and reproductive freedom and have volunteered in varying capacities - from public health to rape crisis counselling to teaching sex education abroad. I was first introduced to period poverty teaching sex education in Nairobi, Kenya. I noticed the older the students were, the less likely it was to have girls in the class. I asked questions and period poverty came up. The idea that menstruators would be missing school because they don’t have products is heart-breaking. It’s so fixable. I thought it was unlikely that this problem existed in Canada, until I started to research and was mistaken. The Period Purse came up in my research and I was eager to be part of an organization that was making a difference.
For those who do not menstruate, how can they help change the stigma?
Language is so important! At TPP, we talk about using the proper words to describe and discuss menstruation. We address slang and popular terms that menstruators have developed over time, to break the ice when discussing the topic and highlight the lengths menstruators have gone to conceal a normal and natural bodily function. Saying the words,”menstruation”, “period”, “menstrual products” can help to change the stigma. We actively engage the students in exercise in saying those words out loud!
What role can cis-gendered boys play?
Working with TPP for two years, I have noticed hesitation on including cis-gendered boys in the Menstruation Nation presentations. It is not often that they are in the class and this is, very much, a part of the problem with the stigma surrounding periods. When boys are included - they are inquisitive, curious, eager to learn and very empathetic when discussing periods. We focus on helping cis-gendered boys to be good allies for menstruators and empathy. They do not get their periods but they conceptually know about them and they take cues from their peers on how to talk about them or not talk about them at all!
We also focus on feelings. When the folks that menstruate use words to describe their periods as “scary”, “gross”, “confusing”, “embarrassing”. Then we'll ask the boys, "Have you ever had those feelings before?", "Can you relate to feeling embarrassed sometimes?”, “How about being embarrassed or confused by something your body involuntarily does?" This usually makes for thoughtful discussions - on the ways that cis-gendered boys could help to lessen any embarrassment or perhaps problem solve if a menstruator is on their period or does not have any products and how they can help.
Some of my favourite moments have been when the adults in the classes chime in (teachers, parents, or organizational leaders). It makes me smile when an adult menstruator learns something new about periods, about their bodies or about politics of menstruation. We’re never too old to learn and most menstruators have not had a proper education on the subject, so the classes that TPP provides is one of the first educational discussions that most adults have actually been in!
I remember demonstrating the insertion of a menstrual cup on a blow-up model cube (which I know may be difficult to picture) but I remember all of the students leaning into their cameras on their computers to have a closer look and the adults were equally mesmerized. I could only see everyone’s eyes! One of the adults whispered right into her microphone, “Oh I can do that!” and resolving to give the menstrual cup a shot.
I enjoy delivering all of the modules - there is so much rich discussion that develops because there is something new to learn in the presentation. As an adult cis-woman, I can certainly attest to this. I have learned a lot about myself, my body, periods and advocacy and I am so proud to be part of this organization.
Want to run a mini drive? Congratulations, you have already done the hardest part. A mini drive might look like bringing together your friends and colleagues to collect period products, or maybe you’ll run an online peer to peer fundraiser. Every successful drive looks different, but all of them require a plan. First, you create a mini drive game plan! With every effort to ensure your mini drive is a success, The Period Purse (TPP) offers a handbook with detailed instructions, checklists, tips and tricks to help you get started. Still have questions? Reach out to the Mini Drive Coordinator!
There are two different ways to run a drive. The first option is to host an online fundraiser - this is a contactless way to help provide marginalized menstruators in your city with a healthy period. Family, friends and colleagues are able to access your donation page and offer an amount of their choice. The second option is all about collecting as many products (pads/tampons/underwear) as possible and dropping them off at TPP’s storage location or a food bank near you (don’t worry, we’ll give you more details in our handbook). Regardless of which method you choose to pursue, The Period Purse is grateful for your support.
When it comes to exposure, utilize all the tools available to you. The TPP’s online presence is vast, so tag us! Covid-19 has undoubtedly impacted the way marginalized menstruators experience their periods, and our vision is to ensure their dignity is not compromised. Your kindness, enthusiasm and commitment is vital to ensuring the community can feel empowered to help menstruators, and organizing a mini drive in your community is a great place to start!
Ready to get started? Let us know your game plan.
Wanna learn more? Read more details on our website.
Still have a question? Email us.
The Collective: a group of generous people who believe that everyone should have a healthy period.
$15 is all that it takes to bring someone a healthy period. $15 is a couple of lattes. One fast food lunch. A bottle of wine. Giving up one of these treats provides one person with the period products they need to handle their period every month so they don't have to resort to toilet paper and rags that leak and cause infection.
$15 a month is all it takes. We have an ambitious goal of providing 200 menstruators with the period supplies they need every month. Will you help us reach this goal?
When you Join The Collective you’ll receive exclusive content as part of your commitment to The Period Purse and each month, you will know that you are raising the quality of life for one person.
We thank the 116 monthly donors we have and as S.R. says, “I like the comradery of knowing someone else is going through having a period with me, and that their experience is improved by access to supplies and mine is improved by knowing I'm not alone.”
P.S. We’re having a private The Collective virtual event on Sat. Nov. 6th, will you join us?
Achieve menstrual equity by providing free menstrual products, and to reduce the stigma surrounding periods - this has been the mission at The Period Purse (TPP) and we continue to honour it. We are happy to announce our collaboration with the Superior-Greenstone District School Board to bring this vision to life. The board is located in North-Western Ontario and spans a large geographical area, with one of the school’s being 400km away from the main school office. But the distance does not dictate the impact the Board and TPP intends to make on it’s students and teachers.
Almost 25% of young folks do not know why people get periods or how to manage them - a pretty alarming statistic, considering people have been menstruating before humans even evolved as a species! That is why TPP is proud to be a part of the Board’s five-year strategic plan to explore creative ways that provide continuous education on menstrual health to support their health curriculum starting in 2021-2022.
Menstrual equity starts with affordability, accessibility and safety - 70% of menstruators have missed work, school or social activities because of their period (Plan Canada, 2018). We need to make sure teachers and students can show up to school and benefit from the Board’s efforts! TPP will provide period product support, along with a huge help from our partnership with Joni Pads, by supplying pads and tampons to 15 schools with over 1300 students and 140 teachers. We are excited about this collaborative effort and will continue to pursue opportunities to support menstrual health.
It all started with one purse, helping one person. It was a beautiful thing and it blossomed into something so much bigger than we could imagine.
A wise person once told me, “the only constant in life is change”. As TPP grows, we continue to evolve in order to better contribute to our community. We said goodbye to purses a while ago. The pandemic cemented that decision and we don't collect any more purses. And we aren't going back.
Purses were a lovely touch and wonderful when we were just getting started. But now, we service thousands of menstruators a month and purses aren't a good fit for us anymore. We now donate period packs, a one month’s supply of products for a healthy period.
We made a conscious decision to shift our focus to collecting period products for a few reasons. Purses were heavy, took up a lot of storage space and were hard to ship. Unfortunately, this created a lot of burden on our amazing volunteers. As well, various shelters have different rules; they often had to empty the contents of the purse, and had very little storage space to take our large filled purse donations. We continue to take pride in our mission of menstrual health and this transition will only make us stronger.
If you ever donated a purse, Thank You. We will always be The Period Purse in memory of our one idea that grew into something beautiful. But now it's time to formally say goodbye to the purse. Change is good. It, too, is a beautiful thing.