Until very recently, women rarely discussed — or even mentioned — their menstrual periods in public. The biological function may be utterly essential to procreation but it was also seen as too personal, too embarrassing, and just too messy to mention out loud if any men were around.
Which is partly why the Nova Scotia Period Poverty Summit, held last week in Dartmouth was such a radical and refreshing idea. Because having a period costs money, and to low-income women, that cost, recurring every month, can be a hardship. The first-ever one-day summit was held by a couple of nonprofit groups whose purpose is to ensure that every girl and every woman in the province has access to an ample supply of menstrual cups, tampons and pads — at no cost. The summit was organized by Suzanne Lively’s Friendly Divas, which has given away 700 donated cups, and Erin Casey’s Dignity Period, which has distributed some 100,000 pads and tampons.
In fact, one-third of all Canadian woman under 25 — roughly one million people — reported struggling to afford menstrual products, according to Plan International Canada 2018. One in seven girls have missed school because of a lack of period products. Nova Scotia has the highest rate of food insecurity in the country, with nearly 50,000 people receiving aid from food banks — it stands to reason, then, that women who can’t afford food can’t afford menstrual products, either.
No girl, no woman, should have to stretch her budget to afford menstrual products, let alone do without them and stay home. It’s something to declare openly and loudly: Free cups, pads, and tampons should be a right, not a privilege.
Period Poverty Summit, Nova Scotia