What we heard from the consultations

The engagement process underscored issues under the following themes: period poverty, demand for products, access and product distribution, funding support, and education and research.

Period Poverty

We heard that the need for period products is widespread, but marginalized populations are at the greatest risk for period poverty, particularly immigrants, refugees and racialized individuals, youth, Indigenous peoples, people living in rural and remote areas, people living with a disability, single mothers, and children of single-parent households.

Information gathered through the research and engagement with stakeholders found that menstrual inequity can be a symptom of, or exacerbated by, gender-based violence and financial abuse in relationships, and it is important for shelters to have menstrual products for people fleeing violence.

Demand for Products

We heard that organizations providing period products face unmet demand.

We heard that demand for products has increased. Single-use disposable products tend to be in highest demand, but reusable products are also becoming more common and tend to be appealing to youth, trans and nonbinary people, and certain cultures.

Some stakeholders noted that reusable products are a privilege that many marginalized people lack because of the initial investment to purchase products; a lack of access to private bathrooms, clean water, and laundry services for certain populations; and barriers to education on how to properly use products (such as cups and discs).

We heard that there are many different stakeholders providing support, and there is no cohesive framework across the country with respect to providing access to period products:

Access and Product Distribution

We heard that most organizations do not track product distribution. Findings also showed that despite large differences in the volume of products distributed, disposable pads are distributed more widely and more often than tampons or reusable products.

We heard that organizations prefer to provide bundles of same-type products or of mixed products to clients, and that distribution and access should be tailored to the unique needs of the client.

When asked for their preference for packaging products, respondents to the WAGE-led survey answered as follows:

As to the best approach for the distribution of products within their organizations, the top responses were:

When asked which types of non-profits are best situated to provide products to individuals, the top response was food banks. However, many organizations thought that more than one type of non-profit is well placed to provide access to menstrual products.

We heard that to be successful, geographic considerations must be taken into account.

Research and stakeholder engagement underscored that in the North, a significant barrier to access is the procurement and shipment of products, along with high costs, and there is a mentality of scarcity and concern that the products are not predictably available in remote communities.

It was also noted that choice in menstrual products and easy access are critical to respect cultural considerations and personal preference, and to enable dignity for those looking to access products.

Funding Support

We heard that while many not-for-profit organizations offer period products when they are able, this tends to rely heavily on donations, leading to an inconsistent supply of products.

Education and Research

We heard that education related to menstruation is a key component in advancing menstrual equity.

Stakeholders noted that there is a lack of comprehensive menstruation education, and existing education does not widely consider intersectional identity factors. Respondents to interviews conducted through Douglas College also emphasized the need to expand education on menstruation to reduce stigma and support intersectional and culturally attuned education. They noted that taking advantage of existing sexual and reproductive health initiatives would be an effective way to reach people quickly.

Engagement and research activities confirmed that in Canada, menstruation remains highly stigmatized. Experiences of menstrual stigma are impacted by different intersectional factors, including gender identity, racial identity, power dynamics in formal educational and workplace settings, poverty, housing precarity, Indigeneity, disability status, and immigrant/refugee status.

Research through Douglas College noted that policy can be part of transforming the way that menstrual stigma is experienced and circulated. In Canada, policy work is occurring within a cultural context where menstruation is highly stigmatized. Therefore, programs or initiatives aiming to advance menstrual equity should be careful not to inadvertently reinforce menstrual stigma.

We heard that existing research on menstrual equity in Canada is lacking and not always intersectional, and research is often inaccessible to menstrual equality advocates, as it requires time and resources. There is an opportunity to strengthen and expand on research initiatives as well as establish intersectoral partnerships.

Menstrual Equity Fund Pilot Design

Information gathered through engagement activities informed the design of the MEF pilot, which centres on selecting one established national non-profit organization to:

Learn more about menstrual equity

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