Food Banks Canada selected to run a national pilot addressing barriers to menstrual equity
September 21, 2023 – Toronto, Ontario — Women and Gender Equality Canada
Financial limitations, harmful social norms and attitudes surrounding menstruation are some of the barriers to accessing menstrual products and educational materials. Menstrual equity would ensure equal and comprehensive access to menstrual products, as well as access to education regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Today, the Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, alongside Kirstin Beardsley, Chief Executive Officer, Food Banks Canada, announced that Food Banks Canada, one of the country’s largest organizations to fight food insecurity, will receive $17.9 million to run a national pilot to address barriers related to affordability and stigma that some Canadians face when accessing menstrual products.
The national pilot will:
- Test approaches to distribute free menstrual products to community organizations serving diverse low-income populations across Canada
- ·Partner with several grassroots organizations across Canada that are already advancing menstrual equity to scale up education and awareness activities, which will inform Canadians about period poverty and reduce stigma around menstruation
With its extensive network of sites and partner community-based organizations across the country, Food Banks Canada is able to reach communities and individuals in need. This pilot will provide insights to advancing menstrual equity from coast to coast to coast.
The Menstrual Equity pilot project builds on work by the Government of Canada to advance menstrual equity, including:
- An initiative led by Indigenous Services Canada to provide free menstrual products in First Nations schools on reserves and in federal schools across Canada
- An Employment and Social Development Canada–led project to ensure the provision of free menstrual products in federally-regulated workplaces
Lack of access to menstrual products is closely linked to poverty and disproportionately impacts youth, single mothers, Indigenous peoples, Black and other racialized communities, immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, people living with disabilities, gender diverse individuals, and those who live in remote areas.
“At a time when Canadians are struggling to make ends meet, buying pads, tampons and other menstrual products shouldn’t be an additional source of financial strain. With this pilot, led by Food Banks Canada, we are taking another step forward to end period poverty, while expanding on successful menstrual equity projects in First Nations schools and federal workplaces. Making menstrual products free puts more money back in the pockets of people in need.”
The Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth
“Food banks across the country see first-hand every day how far too many people are forced to choose between personal hygiene products or buying enough food to eat. This pilot is extremely important because of the detrimental effects menstrual inequality creates both physically and mentally. With the support of the food bank network and community organizations, we will work collaboratively to ensure those who need these products the most have access to them, along with public education and awareness activities that break down barriers and create open conversations about menstruation to foster more inclusivity and understanding.”
Kirstin Beardsley, Chief Executive Officer, Food Banks Canada
Budget 2022 committed to creating a Menstrual Equity Fund (MEF) pilot project to address the barriers related to affordability and stigma that some Canadians face when accessing menstrual products. The Menstrual Equity pilot project will run until March 31, 2024.
Menstrual equity refers to equal and comprehensive access to menstrual products, as well as access to education regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Period poverty is a lack of access to menstrual products, education, hygiene facilities, waste management, or a combination of these.
A 2023 public opinion research survey conducted by Environics Research on behalf of Women and Gender Equality Canada found that:
- One in six (17%) Canadians who menstruate have personally experienced period poverty; this rises to one in four (25%) if their household earns less than $40,000 a year.
- One in five (20%) who menstruate say they may not afford period products.
Food Banks Canada is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping Canadians living with food insecurity by supporting a network of 10 provincial associations and more than 4,750 hunger relief organizations, including affiliate food banks and food agencies that work at the community level to relieve hunger.
The announcement is taking place during Gender Equality Week. This year’s theme is United for Gender Equality: Stronger Together.
- Menstrual Equity Fund Pilot Project
- What we heard from the consultations
- Food Banks Canada
- Budget 2022: Piloting a Menstrual Equity Fund for Those in Need
- Minister Hajdu's statement on the accessibility of free menstrual products in all First Nations-operated schools across Canada
- Canada Labour Code to ensure access to menstrual products at work starting December 15
- Gender Equality Week
Press Secretary and Issues Manager
Office of the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth
Women and Gender Equality Canada
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