With this month’s editorial theme being “Mind. Body. Glow” on STYLE Canada, we sought out to explore health issues that affect women. We asked Rachel Ettinger, the founder of Here for Her (a social enterprise that inspires people to take control of their health and challenge societal norms) to discuss menstrual equity and her work. Ettinger was a key player in proposing free menstrual products to the City of London. Since September 2019, free menstrual products have been provided in all publicly accessible, city-owned buildings.
Menstruation is a health issue that is experienced by over half of the Canadian population, yet it is still stigmatized and something we have to “deal with on our own”.
OK, but hold on – what if you can’t afford to purchase menstrual products? Here’s a little background on menstrual equity.
Before we get into it, let me be clear that I am by no means an expert on this subject. However, I am an advocate in the menstrual equity space, along with many other amazing individuals across Canada, learning more about the severity of this issue every day.
Menstrual inequity can be described as the disproportionate impact menstruation can have on people who menstruate compared to those who do not. Those who menstruate have a dependence on accessing menstrual products, which is influenced by economic factors*.
Imagine a student at school – if their parents cannot afford to provide them with products, they will most likely miss school and other opportunities when they are on their period. In case you were not aware, menstrual products are some of the most requested items at foods banks and shelters. Speaking from my own experience, there have been many times when I visited a shelter to drop off products and there were only a few products left in the basket to distribute to individuals.
This. Issue. Is. Real.
Even if you can afford to purchase menstrual products, anyone who menstruates has experienced a time when they were not prepared for their period. In that moment, they had to race home or visit a store to purchase products. They had to leave school or work. This is an equity issue.
Let’s talk about toilet paper for a second. Luckily, it’s provided in washrooms at work, in schools, restaurants and all public washrooms. So… how are menstrual products any different?
Those who menstruate are required to buy hygiene products on top of other expenses such as food, housing, and shelter. Why are they being penalized for a bodily function?
Keep in mind: not everyone who menstruates identifies as female, and not all female-identified individuals menstruate. Trans and non-conforming folks menstruate as well.
So, what can you do? If you happen to menstruate, reflect on your period experience. Think about the privilege of being able to afford products and understand that menstruation is a health issue.
Next, please sign our petition. This petition was created to hold Canada’s federal government accountable for their 2019 menstrual equity statements which were mentioned and never acted upon. At Here For Her, we believe menstrual products should be more accessible for all. We believe menstrual products should be provided in federally regulated workplaces so that menstrual equity can be addressed on a national platform.
Lastly, talk about periods with your family and friends. Discuss them at your workplace and in school. Join a local group that focuses on menstrual equity advocacy.
For more information on how to get involved in advocating for menstrual equity in Canada, check out the programs listed below:
Click on each Instagram handle to access!
*This definition was reworded but was first printed by the group Period Promise in one of their PDFs on menstruation and menstrual equity in schools.