Reflecting on Toronto's Inaugural Menstrual Hygiene Day
"Ok, now there is a day for everything."
"This can't be real"
"Is this a joke??"
"This is the most outrageous thing I have EVER heard of. How insulting and offensive to every single female. Who makes up this SH**???? There is no modesty left in this world. Honestly, this needs to be REMOVED."
"That's just gross, what were you thinking?"
"Wtf? What a waste of time and energy... when is toenail fungus day?"
These are just a few of the more than 350 responses to Toronto Mayor John Tory's tweet announcing that Toronto had proclaimed May 28, 2018, as the city's inaugural Menstrual Hygiene Day. While the remarks may be comical, these reactions to the Mayor's declaration are just further proof that such a day is badly needed to help shed the stigma of menstruation and improve menstrual equity.
Initiated by WASH United in 2014, Menstrual Hygiene Day raises worldwide awareness of the challenges people face due to their menstruation. The 2018 initiative marked the first time that Toronto officially recognized the important awareness day.
Around the world, a lack of access to menstrual products, sanitation and privacy inhibits women, girls, trans-men and non-binary folks from managing their menses safely and with dignity, as defined by them. Makeshift menstrual products made from rags, paper, and other found materials are a breeding ground for bacteria that can lead to infection. Coupled with deep-rooted taboos surrounding menstruation, the fear of leaks, stains and odors often keep marginalized menstruators home from school or work during their periods, the repercussions of which are far-reaching.
While this may sound like the kind of issue that happens only in far-away places, menstrual inequity is an issue even here at home in Canada. Many women, girls, trans-men and non-binary menstruators miss school and work every day due to a lack of access to menstrual products.
I was proud to work with Jana Girdauskas, founder and chair of The Period Purse, to bring Menstrual Hygiene Day to Toronto in 2018, with thanks to our City Hall Champion, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who took up the period poverty cause swiftly. Jana and I had a meeting scheduled with Councillor Wong-Tam on the morning of Fri., May 24 just two days before the global Menstrual Hygiene Day. Our objectives for the meeting were simply to inform Councillor Wong-Tam about period poverty, but upon learning of the issue and its effects here at home, she immediately got to work on declaring Menstrual Hygiene Day. Just two days later, Toronto's declaration of the day became front-page news!
On the heels of Menstrual Hygiene Day, Toronto City Council also passed a motion to include funding in the 2019 city budget for menstrual products in shelters, drop-ins and health centres. But raising awareness of menstrual equity and making sure menstrual products are available to all who need them is only the beginning. In order to truly achieve menstrual equity, we also need to break the curse of centuries of period shame and stigma. We need all of our policies to reflect the reality that some of the population and by some, I mean roughly half of the entire world menstruates.
Listen to this nine-minute episode of the Heavy Flow Podcast to learn more about why simply handing out pads isn't enough when it comes to menstrual equity. Read the news release to learn more about Menstrual Hygiene Day and Toronto's declaration. Stay tuned for more on Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019!
About the Author:
Amanda Laird is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and host of the Heavy Flow Podcast a weekly podcast dedicated to periods, reproductive health and other taboo health and wellness topics. Amanda is the author of the forthcoming book, Heavy Flow: Breaking the Curse of Menstruation, published by Dundurn Press in February 2019. She lives in Toronto. Follow Amanda on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @AmandaLaird. Photo credit: Emily From