Beginning in January 2023, the City of Kamloops is piloting an initiative to provide free period (menstrual) products for employees and for the public in select washrooms. The pilot will evaluate the feasibility of installing free period product dispensers at a larger scale in public washrooms throughout the City. In planning for this initiative, the City of Kamloops engaged several stakeholders including the United Way BC Thompson Nicola Cariboo Region, several comparable municipalities, Thompson Rivers University, and Kamloops Pride. As part of the pilot evaluation the City is also soliciting public feedback. Have your say by completing a short survey about the Period Product Initiative.
Significant research spearheaded by the United Way has brought to light the extent to which our population is negatively affected by barriers limiting access to menstrual products. Half of people who menstruate in BC – women, girls, nonbinary people and trans folks – have struggled to buy products at some point in their life. More than a quarter have gone through a period without having period products whatsoever, and nearly 15% grew up in homes where they didn’t have access to menstrual products. When people don’t have access to period products, they often miss school or work, or use unsafe alternatives to make it through their days. Free access to period products, builds equity, inclusivity, and more fulsome participation in City life. Research from the United Way (of Lower Mainland, B.C.) revealed important information about period poverty in Canada:
- Most people who experience period poverty access period products by going to community organizations and requesting free products or taking resources that are readily available without asking. This is the preferred point of access.
- Period poverty is a generalized symptom of poverty and, as a result, those equity-seeking groups who experience poverty are the most likely to have challenges accessing period products when they are needed. This includes, but is not limited to: single mothers, gender queer folks, people of colour, immigrants and refugees, Indigenous persons, people living with disabilities, and youth.
- As a generalized symptom of poverty, period poverty has a close alignment with household food insecurity.
- Most people who experience period poverty, particularly those who also experience housing insecurity, prefer to use disposable products because of the challenges that arise in cleaning and storing reusable products (menstrual cups, washable menstrual pads and underwear) for the duration of their lifespan.
- When people do not have access to period products they will often stay home and bleed in private, meaning they miss out on school, work, or other opportunities to be engaged in their communities. This is chosen over bleeding in public without having access to product.
- If people who experience period poverty do need to leave their homes without the proper product, they will often use unsanitary alternatives, including rags, old clothing, paper towel, or newspaper. Some use disposable products for longer than recommended, thereby putting their physical health at risk.
- The stigma about menstruation makes it difficult for people who experience period poverty to discuss it openly. Menstrual stigma is the primary reason people don’t ask for period products when they are needed, and why some prefer to isolate at home rather than bleed in public. The stigma, which is enhanced for those who experience period poverty, makes it difficult to track the scale and broad impact that lack of access to period products has in our community.
- The reliance on period products to remain engaged in community combined with uncertainty of where and how it can be accessed, leads to substantial anxiety for those who live with period poverty.
For several years, the City of Kamloops has participated in the United Way’s Period Promise campaign to collect period product donations, which are distributed through community organizations to those in need. The campaign also encourages governments, public schools, and other employers to provide period products free of charge to their employees and communities. The City of Kamloops is following the example of several communities who have already taken that pledge including the City of North Vancouver, the City of Victoria, and Thompson Rivers University. For more information on the United Way’s Period Promise Campaign visit: PeriodPromise.ca