That dreaded “time of the month” often means dolling out extra cash to ensure comfort and sanitation. Products needed to manage menstruation and make it less terrible, such as tampons, pads and pain relief capsules, can add up in cost each month. Those who have the means to buy these seemingly accessible items, perhaps don’t think much about what it’s like for those who do not. Periods are terrible enough, even when all those products are available and affordable. But for those without the funds to purchase necessary menstruation products, it can mean health risks, missing out on day-to-day necessities, like work and school, and can result in unnecessary embarrassment.
In Toronto, pads and tampons are made available, but at a cost of $8 to $10 a box, on average. Those from low-income families or living on the streets or in shelters, are often prohibited from having access. The Period Purse, is an organization that provides purses filled with pads, tampons and menstrual wellness items to homeless and impoverished individuals across the nation in need of the items. The founder of the organization, Jana Girdauskas, shares about the reality many women face and the options they are left with.
“The reality is, many people experiencing homelessness are using newspaper or homemade tampons, or they resort to stealing,” she said. “What other choice do they have when menstrual products aren’t even a line item in the budget for our city’s shelters or drop-in centres? Any products that are available have been donated and supply can be sporadic. You might get one or two tampons for your entire cycle.”
Public restrooms make soap and toilet paper available, but there is clearly a need for pads and tampons to be as well. Heavy Flow podcast host Amanda Laird went so far as to point out that the lack of menstrual products made accessible to those who can’t afford the cost in drug stores and grocery stores, indicates who is making the decisions in Toronto and even on a global scale.
“Boys aren’t taught about menstruation in health class and it’s still such a taboo topic. Periods are just not something you’re supposed to talk about,” Laird says. “If you’ve never had a period or you don’t know anything about them you’re not going to think about how a lack of menstrual products might impact your day; about how being caught unprepared when your period starts might affect you.”
The Period Purse is holding a fundraising drive on June 8th to bring awareness to the issue while also collecting items like tampons, large purses and backpacks. Donations can be dropped off at Tokki, at 3124 Dundas St. West in Toronto.
Menstruation has somehow become a taboo topic. But why? It’s a necessary part of a cycle that prepares a woman to give new life. All are alive because of menstruation and all women need to have access to appropriate sanitary products that will allow each to live their lives without worry, fear and embarrassment.