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.
At the Period Purse, we want to gather a community of like minded people to discuss topics and themes that matter. This summer, we're launching a book club to bring together eager learners with a love for literature and...PERIODS!
Our first book, Heavy Flow, written by Amanda Laird (@amandalaird) aims to challenge the existing narrative on menstruation - SPOILER ALERT! Amanda took some time to answer a few of our pressing questions below!
1. In the book, Heavy Flow, menstruation is framed as the fifth vital sign - providing health insights into our bodies, how do we as individuals push for better recognition of the menstrual cycle as a vital sign in the medical establishment?
Amanda: We can push for better recognition of the menstrual cycle as a vital sign by talking openly and without shame about menstrual cycles not just with medical professionals but in general! Advocating for ourselves when it comes to pain and menstrual health -- speaking to our doctors, asking for a second opinion and providing feedback to providers if it feels safe to do so.
2. How do we bring non-menstruators and men into the fold of period acceptance and awareness and support them to become agents of change?
Amanda: Having frank conversations with all kids and teaching them about menstrual cycles during puberty education will go a long way in normalizing periods. When we keep periods secret we are missing an opportunity to break the curse.
3. If you had the power to change policy around menstruation and menstrual health overnight - what would your first change be?
Amanda: I would definitely ensure menstruators are included in all health studies and drug trials with specific controls for menstrual cycles - looking at how symptoms might fluctuate throughout the cycle and how medications, testing and illness affect the menstrual cycle. Flexible working arrangements for all workers with paid time off for illness and rest. And of course, free menstrual products in every restroom!
4. How can we, as individuals, support other menstruators who experience regular and intense pain?
Amanda: First and foremost recognizing that period pain is real pain and also just because pain might be common doesn't mean it's normal! We must also be careful not to gaslight these individuals based on our own experience. Saying things like "it's just cramps" is not helpful for someone with a serious illness like endometriosis who may experience debilitating pain at any point in their cycles.
There you have it folks! We hope you get a chance to grab your copy of Heavy Flow and start changing the narrative around your period. If you want to hear more from Amanda, join us on Wednesday August 4, 2021 from 7:30-8:30pm EST for an online book club chat and interview.
Menstrual Health Day (MH Day), celebrated on May 28, brings together organizations, non-profits and individuals worldwide to build awareness on the importance of menstrual health and hygiene. May 28 is symbolic because May is the 5th month of the year, most menstruators have their periods for 5 days and cycles average 28 days. This day was first celebrated 11 years ago and our efforts to ensure the most vulnerable populations continue to have healthy periods has been exacerbated by the global pandemic:
- Toronto Food Bank partners have reported a 100-300% increase in demand for period products
- In the first four months of 2021, we donated over 30,000 healthy periods, almost doubling our donations in 2020
Through the pandemic and transitioning online, The Period Purse (TPP) volunteers and donors have remained resilient and continue to live and breathe the TPP mission; providing people who menstruate with access to free menstrual products, and to reduce the stigma surrounding periods through public education and advocacy.
Why does MH Day matter now?
MH Day is also an opportunity for advocacy and through partnership with several cities; you may have noticed a few things that happened around your neighbourhood;
- For the third year in a row, John Tory has proclaimed MH Day in Toronto, along with five other cities in Ontario; Sault Ste. Marie, Newmarket, Markham, Oakville, and Burlington
- The Period Purse flag was raised in Toronto, Newmarket and Sault Ste. Marie
- We lit monuments up across the country in Edmonton, Hamilton, Lethbridge, Mississauga, Montreal, Niagara Falls, Toronto and Vancouver
These initiatives along with our continued efforts to raise awareness and collect donations will bring us closer to menstrual equity. Menstruation is not a problem, poor menstrual health is.
As the world continues to focus their energy on the global pandemic, menstrual health remains top of mind for The Period Purse. Menstruators struggling with internalized shame and lack of access to period products, coupled with the pandemic have suffered vastly on all fronts. For TPP, MH Day is celebrated every day. We hope to lift the dignity of menstruators and you can help too; whether you're spending time educating family and friends, learning about the cause or donating - every action counts!
I distinctly remember when I first heard about The Period Purse; I was driving to work listening to Metro Morning, Jana, our Founder, was being interviewed. When I heard that there were menstruators in shelters and on the streets who had nothing to use during their periods and potentially have to use whatever they could find including newspaper, I was moved to get involved. In 2018, I started my first blitz and became Chapter Leader for Mississauga. Genevieve joined and we expanded to become Dufferin-Peel.
I have learned so much about the city where I live, not realizing that there are so many people in the Peel Region experiencing homelessness. Funding in shelters vary from location because they are managed through the region. I learned that each location's budget for hygiene products includes period products, soap and shampoo, so there is not enough to go around.
The pandemic brought many challenges; we were not able to set up donation locations, host packing parties and shelters were not accepting items. I miss the amazing energy by working together with others to pack the purses and make the period packs. I miss the feeling I get when I can drop off the material and see the small difference we are making in people's lives.
Fortunately, Women Supporting Women (WSW, Brampton) made a significant donation in fall of 2019 and we were able to provide period products to four of our locations with direct shipments from the retailers during such a difficult time.
I first heard about the Period Purse via Facebook and I felt drawn to get involved. I have had moments in my life where I struggled to be able to afford hygiene products, so this organization really hits close to home with me. There was no chapter in Orangeville so I sent an email to see how I could get involved and became a chapter leader, the rest is history! The Brampton area needed a leader and I reached out to Lianne to join forces and we became the Dufferin-Peel chapter!
The most rewarding part of being a co-chapter leader is working with an amazing community filled with strong and passionate individuals from the Period Purse and shelters. There is an overwhelming feeling of love when you are able to donate products that are so necessary but most often overlooked. My eyes have truly been opened to the amount of people experiencing homelessness in my area. I have learned so much through this organization that I will always be grateful for.
A successful blitz is dependent on getting the word and support of local companies. There is always someone out there who has not heard of us before but wants to help!
In 2021, we would love to see; a growth in our donations, a safer time for us to be able to start accepting physical donations again, resume packing parties, and most importantly growing our volunteers list!