United Way BC fights menstrual inequality

The campaign aims to collect over 500,000 menstrual products in May

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various period products, pads, and tampons stacked on a toilet lid
PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Yashita Dhillon, News Writer

In an effort to combat period poverty across BC, United Way BC has launched its 2024 Period Promise campaign, which is an initiative that they’ve run since 2017 to fundraise, collect, and deliver menstrual product donations from Canadians and non-profits. They then deliver menstrual products to low-income Canadians. United Way BC has a broad focus, spanning from emergency responses and senior’s support, to youth activities and fighting food insecurity. In partnering with Pacific Blue Cross and CUPE Local 1816, they seek to address the growing challenges faced by those who menstruate through education on the societal impacts of period poverty, and calling for donations of products. 

Period poverty refers to the barriers in accessing menstrual products, often due to financial constraints or societal stigma related to menstruation. Access to menstrual products has increasingly become a luxury for many.

The Peak spoke with Kim Winchell, provincial director of community impact and investment at United Way BC, who highlighted the growing difficulty of accessing menstrual products amid rising costs, particularly affecting students, workers, and single parents.

“Not having access to menstrual products isolates people,” Winchell explained. “So they miss community events, they miss social events, they miss school, they miss work, they miss medical appointments, and all of these can contribute negatively to health outcomes.”

Last year’s campaign saw over 800,000 menstrual products collected and distributed from 200 non-profit organizations. “We’re really fortunate to live in a province where there is so much generosity from the general public,” she said. 

“Not having access to menstrual products isolates people. So they miss community events, they miss social events, they miss school, they miss work, they miss medical appointments, and all of these can contribute negatively to health outcomes.” — Kim Winchell, United Way BC

“26% of people who menstruate have to make tough decisions about basic needs like paying rent or buying menstrual products,” Winchell explained, citing their Period Promise research project. This affects “health outcomes, employability, and participation in community events.” 

To distribute menstrual products, United Way BC transports donations from collection points to non-profits and has partnered with DoorDash to facilitate free delivery of products across various locations. They also work with corporations and non-profits with large trucks, allowing for the transportation of menstrual products to remote areas. 

United Way BC aims to expand the accessibility of menstrual products to public spaces, not only to provide immediate access to necessary products but to normalize the availability of menstrual health supplies as a standard amenity. “We really hope to continue to raise awareness with people and communities about the need for this,” Winchell explained. “Oftentimes, we don’t talk about the essential need of period products.

We want to remove stigma from the conversation. We also want to help workplaces, post-secondary institutions, and corporations to put free products into their bathrooms. And to make sure that is accessible for people that come into their workplaces as well.” 

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