HSA Stomp Out Period Poverty Campaign

HSA Stomp Out Period Poverty Campaign

About This Campaign


Periods are a fact of life. Monthly menstruation products are a necessity. And nobody should have to pick between feeding their family and being able to afford basic hygiene products. But if you’re living in poverty – or marginalized in other ways – access to menstrual products can be challenging.

But we can be part of changing this story.

Throughout the month of March, HSA chapters from around the province will be running collection drives for menstrual products (tampons, pads, and menstrual cups), to support local community organizations, while looking at ways to tackle the root causes of period poverty. Collected products will be distributed through United Way partners to local community organizations.

Through the leadership of the Women’s Committee, HSA has been a force for change in raising awareness to stomp out menstrual stigma and taking up collection drives to get menstrual products to people who need them.

We’re seeing this hard work grow into a movement. Just yesterday, the New Westminster School Board voted to provide free menstrual products in schools, and support for free menstrual products for people who need them is growing.

Together, we can continue to build on this momentum and stomp out period poverty!
United Way of the Lower Mainland

Campaign to Support United Way of the Lower Mainland

United Way has been helping people in the Lower Mainland for over 86 years. United Way funds 146 local organizations that provide over 318 programs and services in 26 communities in the Lower Mainland.  With your help, United Way puts together the right resources and people to move  families from poverty to possibility, help kids be all they can be, and build strong communities for all. 

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Stomp Out Period Poverty

For those with periods, accessing menstruation products can be a barrier to participating fully in society. One-third of women in Canada under the age of 25 have struggled to afford menstrual products, according to a report released by Plan International Canada in 2018.

Many trans, non-binary, and gender-diverse people are also impacted by the cost of menstrual products and other barriers to access. When living with a limited income, these costs can cause unnecessary stress and affect one’s ability to purchase other necessities.

The good news is that there’s a growing movement to make menstrual products accessible and reduce the stigma surrounding periods. HSA members are acting to change just how society treats menstruating people.

Last March, HSA collected 103,269 tampons, pads and menstrual cups in a highly successful donations drive carried out by HSA members and staff, with support from the Health Sciences Association Staff Union (HSASU).  Under the banner of Tampon Tuesday, products were collected for distribution to United Way local partner organizations.  HSA also partnered with Dixon Transition Society and the Comox Valley Transition Society to ensure products would be available to women fleeing violence.  

This year, HSA’s Women’s Committee is delivering a new message through the campaign: Stomp Out Period Poverty.

When your money is stretched and you’re making choices between medicine and food, the costs of menstrual products are just another barrier for people,” said committee chair Mandi Ayers.

 “I realized this is something unfair that people shouldn’t have to face, especially when they’re struggling to survive.”

“Young folks who don’t have access to these products are missing out on school, and that should not be happening,” she explained. “No one should have to miss out on anything because they’re unable to access menstrual products.”

While access to menstrual products is important, Ayers said that BC needs strong anti-poverty legislation so that people with periods won’t need to struggle to afford basic necessities.

As part of the campaign to Stomp Out Period Poverty, HSA has developed a toolkit for members to support coordinating donations drives and public advocacy on period poverty. In addition to collecting product donations, members are encouraged to call on our public institutions to make menstrual products accessible. This means delivering dedicated public funding for programs that would increase access for those who need them.

In a recent victory for advocates against period poverty, the New Westminster School Board voted Feb. 26 to provide free pads and tampons in all its school bathrooms. School trustees have said they are planning to approach the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance through the BC School Trustees Associate with a request to provide funding for free menstrual products in all schools across BC.

One of the HSA members who has taken up the campaign to Stomp Out Period Poverty is Annemarie Rongve, a pharmacist at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. Rongve,who also sits on HSA’s Women’s Committee, was first activated by this issue at HSA’s 2018 Convention.

“The very first time it occurred to me that this was a problem was last year at convention when they showed the video of what people on the streets have to do while on their periods. It never occurred to me that people might not have access to menstrual products. It was kind of horrifying to me that this could be happening.”

She said period poverty is a human rights issue when you think about the big picture. 

“You’d think that women’s rights had come a long way, but I just can’t believe that in this day and age, we don’t have across-the-board hygiene products in the bathrooms for everyone to access.”

Rongve has now taken the campaign back to her worksite, and supported her chapter with launching the Stomp Out Period Poverty campaign.

First, Rongve reached out to management at Royal Jubilee, and received support for a donations drive across the hospital’s sites. On Feb. 13, the chapter hosted a meeting for HSA members, providing an opportunity for them to learn about period poverty and discuss what a campaign could look like locally. A short video was shown, which explored how people living on the street coped with having their periods.

A two-week donations drive was launched, and it didn’t take long before collection sites popped up across Victoria, inside and outside the hospital. Rongve said a total of 12 sites collected donations. She attributes the great community response, in part, to an announcement shared through Island Health’s newsletter, which spread beyond Royal Jubilee.

“Quite a few people who saw that emailed me and said, ‘hey, can I collect?’” said Rongve.

Then some of the chapter’s stewards went throughout the hospital and asked people to be a part of the campaign.

Rongvekept track of donation sites through a sign-up sheet, and at the end of the campaign, the sites submitted their product tabulations. In two weeks, the chapter collected just under 10,000 products, which were delivered to the United Way’s Fill the Bus event at Hillside Centre in Victoria.

Building the campaign

This is the very first time I’ve done something like this,” said Rongve. She said that while there was a learning curve for her in coordinating the drive, “You just have to jump in and say, ‘ok, I’m going to do this.’” She said that by doing, she was able to get over her nervousness.

She started by making a step-by-step list of what needed to be done.

According to Rongve, “HSA has been very supportive.” She said staff in HSA’s organizing department helped her generate ideas and gave her a lot of encouragement. 

For members looking to participate in the Stomp Out Period Poverty campaign, resources are available to ensure chapters are successful. A variety of materials, including posters, stickers, buttons, and sign-up lists are available to support member donation drives and advocacy work.

While product drives have a lot of tangible impact, HSA is exploring how systemic solutions to period poverty can be addressed through the campaign. This means looking at how public policy can be changed to provide increased access to menstrual products.

Ayers would like to see menstrual products provided in schools, public washrooms, and workplaces. Following a recommendation to the union’s board of directors from the Women’s Committee, free menstrual products are available in HSA’s office washrooms to ensure visitors have barrier-free access to the products they need.

Ayers also emphasized the importance of public education. She said that education can help address the stigma surrounding periods, which is an important element of attacking period poverty.

“Why is there such a stigma?” asked Ayers. “It’s just a fact of life. In the past, you didn’t talk about it. You couldn’t even mention the word ‘period.’ People would say cryptic things like ‘my friend came to visit,’ or ‘Aunty Flow is here.’ But there is no shame in having your period. We should not be afraid to talk about it.”

Rongve said that when the Women’s Committee first took on the issue, they realized that period poverty really impacts people’s lives. “It just became something that we need to take on, and make bigger every year.”

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