by: Nicole Sanchez
Research suggests that menstrual hygiene products such as pads, tampons, and applicators have sales tax because they are considered “luxury items”. However, if you talk to any and every single female, they would not agree with this statement. A normal menstruation lasts about 5-7 days and occurs every single month. Imagine paying for a “luxury item” every single month. It sure does not seem like a luxury nor is it something that women can escape from.
This summer, I was given the chance to help with this problem – trying to eliminate the lack of accessibility of these menstrual hygiene products. Working with No Woman Without Period, an organization that is working towards providing free menstrual hygiene products to the vulnerable communities, I have had the pleasure to be one of their helpers in reaching to the community and distributing menstrual hygiene products to those in need. According to them, the average woman spends thousands of dollars due to their menstrual cycles, and the vulnerable female population suffers from the lack of accessibility.
When I first thought about what I wanted to do for my Stretch Experience, I knew I wanted to do something that involved women empowerment. I have been working on a project called Hempact through a student group at the University of Alberta and since I grew absolutely love what I do for Hempact and the integrity of the project – helping the community by educating the youth regarding the realities of menstruation and creating a sustainable alternative to menstrual hygiene pad – I decided I wanted to do something that resembles it. Having the background of teaching to Highschool students about periods through Hempact, my eyes were opened about all the things that you wouldn’t normally think about living in Canada and having the privilege to access most of your necessity, such as menstrual products (which again are not a luxury). I realized that some of us do not know all the options that we have when we go through our periods for the first time, which I experienced firsthand since menstruation is such a taboo topic in the Philippines as well, I thought I only had the option of using pads. I also found out how much waste these menstrual hygiene products produce and how long they stay in the landfills. More importantly, however, I realized how hard it is for some females to even access these products. A pack of 20 pads cost about $9 and that lasts for about one and a half cycles. You can imagine how easy this could add up depending on a number of factors relating to someone’s period cycle. To further, these menstrual hygiene products are so inaccessible to some women that they use other alternatives such as toilet paper during their period – an option that is highly unhygienic.
When I got connected to the No Woman Without Period team, I know that this organization is who I wanted to work with over the summer. The work towards menstrual hygiene products only starts with collecting donations and giving them back to the community, the real work is getting these products supplied for free for everybody by the government. Having these donations dropped off at various organizations who also helped the community or to individuals directly could only go so far. Through this Stretch Experience, I have been a part of trying to lobby menstrual hygiene product accessibility – something that every government should work on. Providing free menstrual hygiene product is a huge step towards equal rights because if we can have toilet papers in our bathrooms, why can’t we have menstrual hygiene products for someone who is in desperate need when they get their periods unexpectedly in a public place? This movement by No Woman Without Period is something that I see myself supporting even after I am done with my Stretch Experience. I see the impact that the organization has in these women and in the communities that we helped, and I believe it is really important that we finally normalize the topic of menstruation and start talking about how we can aide not only the vulnerable female population but everyone who goes through menstruation (period).