More Period Equity Activists You Should Know
While much work remains to be done to achieve period equity in the country—unlike Scotland, Canada doesn’t yet provide universal access to period products—significant work is being done nonetheless, in schools as well as in communities, to fight for menstrual equity. Here we spotlight more period equity activists working across Canada to provide period products to those who need them.
Read on—and for more inspiration, check out our first volume of period equity activists you should know!
1. Taqdir Kaur Bhandal, CEO of @imwithperiods, Halifax, NS/Vancouver, BC
Taqdir Kaur Bhandal, who goes by Taq, is the founder of @imwithperiods, a social enterprise that educates and inspires love around period health. Taq was born in Vancouver, and her family hails from Punjab, India, and Pakistan; ancestral traditions, combined with scientific research, inform much of her work and advocacy. Taq is also a researcher, period health coach, and the author of Self-Care Down There, a book on pelvic and period self-care for all who bleed. Partial profits from its sale go to charities that do front-line mahwari health (Punjabi for ‘menstrual health’) education around the world.
One thing that drives me to fight period poverty is… “My commitment to supporting the health of the collective and the Earth. I believe in creating futures where periods and mahwari cycles are honored, supported through sustainable period supplies, and loved deeply by everyone.”
One thing anyone can do today to fight period poverty is… “Switch to sustainable, earth-friendly period supplies so that they become even more affordable for everyone to use and share.”
2. Phillip Jang, Co-Founder & Operations Coordinator of Red Dot Project, Toronto, ON
A professor in Seneca College’s Social Service Worker Program, Phillip learned about period poverty in 2016 when a student, doing their practicum at a youth shelter, talked about the shelter’s lack of period products. Philip was shocked not only to find that this was the case, but that it was common across other shelters in the city. So he decided to start an initiative to supply period products to individuals experiencing homelessness in downtown Toronto. In 2017, after partnering with students Lucy Ambartsumyan, Waheeda Ali, and Hayley Mutch, Red Dot Project was born. It has since also received funding to operate an outreach van for individuals who bleed and that have moved into permanent housing. On top of period products, Red Dot Project also delivers cleaning and hygiene supplies and conducts wellness checks to ensure these individuals are not feeling isolated during the pandemic.
One thing that drives me to fight period poverty is… “Understanding how much of a barrier that having poor access to menstrual supplies creates, in relation to someone's education, work, and pretty much all other aspects of life. Knowing that, for so long, about half the population in the world has been dealing with menstruation, while the other half could choose (and is often encouraged) to ignore it—is unacceptable. This has created an unfair privilege for people like myself who do not menstruate. Menstrual equity is very achievable and far past overdue.”
One thing anyone can do today to fight period poverty is… “Talk about menstruation. There is such diversity in experience that a menstruator can have in managing their period. We should be at a point where access to supplies is not an issue anymore so we can discuss topics like endometriosis, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and the fact that not all menstruators are women. Trans and non-binary folx menstruate too. Many people in positions of power don't feel comfortable talking about periods without using a euphemism. How are they able to then decide on policies and allocate budgets that determine access to menstrual supplies? Menstrual equity cannot be achieved as long as periods remain taboo.”
3. Chloé Pronovost-Morgan & Julia Coste, Co-Founders of Monthly Dignity, Montreal, QC/Paris, France
McGill University students Chloé Pronovost-Morgan and Julia Coste started Monthly Dignity in 2017, after deciding to volunteer for a similar organization and realizing there wasn’t one in Montreal. The non-profit provides period pads, tampons, and period cups to individuals experiencing homelessness. They also partner with high schools to offer free period products to students who need them. While Chloé is based in Montreal, co-founder Julia operates Monthly Dignity in Paris.
One thing that drives me to fight period poverty is… “The fact that accessing adequate menstrual hygiene products should be a right and not a privilege. It’s a simple fact but a weighted one—because until that’s the case, menstruation poses a barrier to gender equity. Menstruation is a biological phenomenon that is a sign of good health. It should be celebrated, and not be a burden or a hurdle for anyone, anywhere.” - Chloé
“My desire to help achieve a more equal world. Menstruation is, unfortunately, an additional hurdle in many people’s lives, and amplifies the vulnerability of those who are already most disadvantaged. I believe fighting against period poverty is a necessary step in levelling the playing field!” - Julia
One thing anyone can do today to fight period poverty is… “Learn about and talk about it. One of the major reasons why period poverty exists as a problem is that people don’t know about it. Menstruation and precocity are taboo subjects; we tend to prefer ignoring them. Let’s break the stigma and start a conversation!” - Chloé
“Give their time and attention to non-profit organizations such as Monthly Dignity. Not everyone can donate money, but just talking about the cause or dedicating some time to it can go a long way!” - Julia
4. Bleed the North, Toronto, ON
Youth-led non-profit Bleed the North was founded by Isabela Rittinger in March 2020, just as much of the country (and the rest of the world) went into lockdown due to the pandemic. Seeing the stockpiling of period products in grocery stores, as well as the effects of period poverty on individuals in Ontario, Isabela decided to spend her newfound spare time assembling a group of like-minded individuals to work on Bleed the North. The team—composed of Isabela as well as Mia Medic, Palwashah Ali, Eden Brown, Kenzie Dent, Rhea George, Olivia Iglesias, Sommerly Grimaldi-Ertl, Sanjana Vuyyuru, Rebecca Oeyangen, Elle Altman, Briana Tang, and Sophie Bédard—serves to supply period products to individuals in need in Ontario, provide period education and raise awareness on period poverty, and work with grassroots organizations and community members toward period equity through reform and legislation.
One thing that drives us to fight period poverty is… “Thinking of all the menstruators struggling to afford period products and all the stigma, physical and mental issues that come with it. At Bleed the North, we are fighting to ensure equality for all, making sure that no menstruator ever has to feel scared or embarrassed of their period. Fighting for this heavily underrepresented issue helps to lift menstruators out of a state of impoverished health to one of flourishing health. The education that comes with our mission allows us to talk about an issue that many don’t even know exists.”
One thing anyone can do today to fight period poverty is… “Reflect on what it would be like to not have products, clean underwear, or proper sanitation for your period. After this reflection, take action. Donating to and supporting organizations like Bleed the North to help menstruators in need is an amazing step to helping end period poverty in your community. If you can’t contribute financially, educating yourself and others is also incredibly helpful. Finally, join us on May 28th on Menstrual Hygiene Day, as we host an event to talk about intersectionality in menstruation and hear first-hand experience from a wide variety of menstruation stories. Starting these conversations helps reduce the stigma around periods and ultimately helps reduce period poverty.”