On my way to work one morning, I was listening to “Metro Morning” on CBC Radio and heard Jana Girdauskas being interviewed about The Period Purse. This was the first time I heard about menstruators who had no access to period products and would have to use whatever items they could find, such as newspaper, paper towels, and socks. This opened my eyes to a situation I never realized existed, and I knew that I wanted to help. I needed to be a part of this organization and help menstruators.
When I got home that day, I looked up the website for The Period Purse, clicked on the “Contact Us” page, and expressed my interest to get involved. A few days later I had a conversation with the Chapter Coordinator to learn more. My choices for involvement were to run a mini drive or jump right into being a chapter leader. We decided together that I would run a mini drive and then decide if I wanted to pursue being a chapter leader. I organized a mini drive with my yoga teacher training friends, collecting products and hosting a packing party, making period packs and loading up purses. Later, I was able to donate these to a local shelter and see the impact that we made. I was hooked! Following the mini drive, I signed up to be a chapter leader for the city of Mississauga, and then joined another chapter leader and formed the Dufferin-Peel Chapter. Over the past four years, we have donated over 150,000 period products. I feel like I am making a difference in peoples’ lives and I am so grateful to be able to do this.
As of June 2021, we currently have chapters in Toronto, Durham, Dufferin-Peel, Halton, York, Saugeen Shores, Sault Ste. Marie, Wilmot, Halifax, Calgary, Edmonton, and Regina.Currently, we are on the search for more chapter leaders across the country. Do you want to help reduce period poverty in your town? Then why not think about joining our team. We can provide lots of support and suggestions on how to successfully run a blitz, from finding locations for collections to how to locate where to donate the products that are collected. The team meets quarterly to share ideas and best practices and support each other, and blitzes can be run once or twice a year. No matter how small, you can make a difference – contact us today to see how you can get involved.
I’m a privacy professional and until recently, I kept track of my period in my iPhone’s Notes app because I don’t want my data being shared with anyone else or used for advertising.
Recently, I downloaded the Menstruation Nation app and entered the first day of my last period. Why would I download an app that is “by youth, for youth”? Because youth get it! They understand privacy, they demand it, and when they don’t find it they build it themselves.
The Privacy Pro worked with The Period Purse and UofT Blueprint to create the privacy notice for the Menstruation Nation app, our whole team was honoured and excited to help. Collecting sensitive health data, especially about young people, is risky. Privacy laws are strict and it can be difficult to implement strong enough security controls to prevent the data from being lost or stolen.
The Period Purse team explained they would not be collecting any personal information, and we went from worried to thrilled! The next generation understands privacy, they care about it, and they’re actually building it.
The Menstruation Nation (M.Nation) app stores all the data locally on your Apple devices (it’s only on iOS right now). There is an option to login using your Apple ID and download your data onto iCloud - useful if you’re changing phones and don’t want to lose it. The feature is off by default, and none of the functionality relies on it. The Period Purse does not and cannot collect or access any data - no one can, except the user.
I’m proud The Privacy Pro played a very small part in the Menstruation Nation app, and sincerely congratulate The Period Purse and U of T Blueprint on developing a first-of-its-kind privacy focused app!
Menstruation is experienced by over half of the Canadian population, yet the conversation around periods can still be seemingly uncomfortable or “inappropriate” depending on who you talk to. Thanks to social media and films like Pixar’s Turning Red (FINALLY!), menstruation and other health issues are being more readily discussed, however; we still have work to do. Many people still associate “periods” with something only women experience. This assumption is inaccurate and leads to further health inequities, a key issue that people with vaginas continue to experience today.
It’s important to be inclusive when discussing the topic of menstruation. Here’s why: people who menstruate may include women, trans men, gender non-binary and 2Spirit people. Being inclusive when discussing menstruation has been an important learning for us within the Here for Her community.
Back in 2017, we created our social enterprise with the intent to focus on promoting health education and focusing specifically on women’s health. Don’t get us wrong, this work has and continues to be very important, but health issues are experienced by people with vaginas every day who may not identify as women and/or use the pronouns she/her. It’s important to include ALL folks in this conversation, as the collective goal here is to raise awareness on issues around menstruation, fight for menstrual equity, health equity and ensure all folks are properly educated on their health, able to advocate for themselves and have access to healthcare and basic human necessities like menstrual products.
Another important fact to note is menstrual inequities disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous and people of colour, as well as trans and non-binary individuals and people with disabilities. As a result, we are planning a rebrand, moving away from using the pronoun “her” in our name and continuing to focus on promoting health education and advocating for gender and health equity for all folks in Canada!
Follow Rachel and her amazing Advocacy work @shophereforher
An interview of Caitlin McKay by Jannie Nheng
Blood Great Run (GRB) is our annual May fundraiser to honour Menstrual Health Day (MH Day on May 28th). It is an event for like minded individuals to raise funds for The Period Purse. Caitlin McKay had this great fundraising idea to raise awareness of menstrual health. Here is what she has to say as a team captain:
“The Bloody Great Run is a way for people to collectively do something that is tangible, actionable, and impactful because organizations need funds. It is a way to raise awareness about a cause that you are excited about! You function in teams to achieve the collective goal to “move” 28 km OR 28 hours over 28 days to raise $2,800(in case you haven’t noticed MH Day is on May 28th). Right now, we all need to connect with people and feel team spirit. People are starting to look outside of themselves and seek ways to do something good for someone else.”
Fundraisers can be challenging in different ways so how do you keep your team motivated? How do you talk about periods with your peers?
Caitlin coaches her team to overcome uncomfortable conversations of asking friends and family for support. Peers can rally for the cause in various ways, whether it be through financial donations or sharing via social media! It is all about getting out of your comfort zone.
Talk to your peers about periods, reduce the stigma. Take action, create a Bloody Great Run team. Ready to get started?
Build your team
Create your fundraising page
Share your message
Spread the news: tell everyone about your fundraiser
MOVE 28km or 28 hours!
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.