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Let's Talk About It, Period: Achieving Menstrual Equity in Canada

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

The House of Commons Committee on the Status of Women released its report on menstrual equity, Let’s Talk About it, Period: Achieving Menstrual Equity in Canada. It’s incredible to witness this report come to life and to see the recommendations in print. This summer, I was honoured to be invited to Ottawa and play a part in this effort, alongside community leaders, advocates, and activists. Also in attendance were what the industry would deem my competitors.


Menstrual equity coalition: Linda Biggs, CEO joni, Leisa Hirtz, CEO of Bfree Cup, and Suzanne Siemens, CEO of Aisle at the House of Commons attending a Committee on the Status of Women meeting at the House of Commons
Linda Biggs, CEO joni, Leisa Hirtz, CEO of Bfree Cup, and Suzanne Siemens, CEO of Aisle at the House of Commons attending a Committee on the Status of Women meeting at the House of Commons

In this picture from the House of Commons, you'll find me seated alongside powerhouse leaders Leisa Hirtz, CEO of Bfree Cup, and Suzanne Siemens, CEO of Aisle. We shared the stage as expert witnesses, passionately delivering our personal and professional testimonies to the Standing Committee for The Status of Women in Canada. Our mission: to champion menstrual equity and advocate for women-led SMEs in the industry, all while pushing for policy changes that pave the way for sustainable, long-term solutions benefiting those who menstruate. I couldn't have asked for better company!


Then we went out and shared a great meal together.


Why?


In a world where old-school capitalist thinking often pits us against each other, we're rewriting the playbook. At joni, being different on purpose is a core value—because we firmly believe that innovation thrives where stagnancy and apathy fall away.


In the 24 hours I spent in Ottawa contributing to these talks, here's what I learned:


1. Advocacy is a team sport (just like startup life)

2. An abundance mindset brings more opportunity than a scarcity mindset

3. When you can, show up in person—that's how the magic happens!


And just look at what happened when we came together!


11 Recommendations to the House of Commons for Menstrual Equity in Canada


This year brought a game-changing move from the federal government with the introduction of the Menstrual Equity Pilot Fund. This initiative ushered in new requirements in the labor code, mandating period care products for federally regulated organizations. The impact? A staggering 18,000 workplaces across Canada will now support thousands of menstruators.


And in the latest triumph, the Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, revealed a $17.9 million boost for Food Banks Canada. This funding injection is specifically earmarked for the procurement and distribution of menstrual products, a critical step in reaching and supporting those grappling with period poverty. That's progress in action!


Now, based on the feedback we participated in, the Committee released their report with 11 recommendations to the House of Commons for achieving menstrual equity in Canada. The new report supports these important developments in addition to other recommendations in the face of increasingly higher living costs.


In addition to defining menstrual or period poverty as a lack of access to period care products due to a variety of factors—including financial limitations and a lack of education about menstrual health—the report examined the negative consequences, including missed school and work. On the other hand, the report stresses that when adopting initiatives for menstrual equity, we must not rely on “one-size-fits-all” solutions, acknowledging that diverse people have different needs.


With that in mind, based on the testimonies they gathered, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women put forth 11 significant recommendations. For a comprehensive understanding, it's advisable to read the report in full. However, in this summary, the committee urges The Government of Canada to:

  1. Consult with Indigenous communities.

  2. Ensure funding for First Nations to procure the quantity needed as well as the desired type of free menstrual health products.

  3. Ensure all First Nations communities have reliable access to clean water.

  4. Work together with local non-profit groups and small community projects that are trying to make sure everyone has fair access to menstrual products.

  5. Provide equal access to menstrual products for all, including transgender and non-binary individuals, by adding safe spaces and gender-neutral restrooms and making sure everyone can get these products without any problems.

  6. Provide menstrual products to groups that support vulnerable individuals, those in precarious situations, or unhoused people.

  7. Work with cities, provinces, Indigenous communities, and others to ensure that everyone has fair access to menstrual products. Employers can be encouraged to provide free products or at a lower cost at work, especially in jobs where people may struggle to afford them. They should also create public spaces with clean restrooms that have special bins for disposing of used products, enough menstrual supplies, and other items for hygiene.

  8. Assess the Menstrual Equity Fund pilot project when it concludes in March 2024 to evaluate if the funding has effectively reduced menstrual poverty and improved access to different types of menstrual products, and make the initiative permanent if it has proven successful in reducing menstrual poverty.

  9. Create a campaign to educate the public about menstrual health, including reusable and eco-friendly products, while also working to remove the stigma and stereotypes related to menstruation.

  10. Focus on obtaining menstrual products that are environmentally friendly and sustainable, including those made from organic, biodegradable, or reusable materials. This commitment should apply to federal programs like the Menstrual Equity Fund and federal labour code requirements that start on December 15, 2023.

  11. Provide funding for research projects related to menstrual poverty, menstrual equity, and menstrual health education.


Moving the Needle on Menstrual Equity


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead


An open period care dispenser for the distribution of free period care toward menstrual equity

I truly believe that five years from now, sustainable period care will be just as accessible as toilet paper in Canada but it's going to take a village. Changing the status quo is a team sport. These recommendations, the pilot fund, and new labour code requirements are an incredible start but here’s how you can help move the needle forward:


  1. Support the period care organizations that are working for change.

  2. Support non-profit organizations that are active in the menstrual health space through period product or financial donations and participating in product drives.

  3. Advocate for menstrual equity at your workplace or school through free period care. joni has created wholesale subscriptions and dispensers to simplify procurement and distribution of free period care in a way that also supports their EDI and DEI initiatives.


I’m so grateful and inspired by the incredible leaders in this space who are willing to work together to drive change forward including Nikki Hill, Danielle Kaftarian, Sussanne Skidmore, Madeleine Shaw, Veronica Brown, Hayley Newman-Petryshen, Clara Bolster-Foucault and so many more.


We look forward to continuing to move the needle on menstrual equity, together!




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