Ten Bucks or Ten Minutes: Stand up for Period Equity

We had the privilege to spend time getting to know the super impressive and inspiring, Tania Cameron this past Saturday night on Come Walk With Us…

Wow.  First off, as we talked about on the program, (which you can watch here), she is a doer – and I get inherently jealous of doers – those folks who know something needs to be done, and they step up, create an action plan to address it – then in fact, do it.

I have about 37 things in my head at any time where I think, that should be addressed – though rarely do 1 or 2 of them get any traction in the action stage.  Though is it really my fault?  I think of it, then….oh wait – there’s another squirrel in the yard….

Regardless, Tania has been creating change for a long time and the feedback we’ve heard from the show was clear: a role model and champion that is inspiring others.  Then doing some more.  It was just a gift to spend time with her and Brennan this weekend.  If you are in the Twitterverse – be sure to follow her at https://twitter.com/TaniaCameron.

She gave us a greater understanding of both a new a provincial program, in partnership with Shoppes Drug Mart that, while important and helpful, is leaving First Nation girls and young women behind, along with the serious overarching issue of inequity in the first place facing Indigenous girls and women living in the north in this country.  And something must be done…period.

Now, not to make light of the situation, though yup, pun intended.  Regardless, here’s the lowdown.

According to Plan Canada, in research conducted in 2019 they found the following:

  • 34% of women and girls in Canada have had to regularly or occasionally sacrifice something else within their budget to afford menstrual products
  • 63% of women and girls have regularly or occasionally missed an activity because of their period and concerns about not being able to access menstrual hygiene products or proper facilities

And in ‘Let’s Talk Periods’, a research report by Always and Plan International Canada, commissioned in 2020, it shares the negative effect they have on young people’s confidence and self-esteem.

  • 58% of girls and young women between the ages of 13 – 21 felt ashamed or embarrassed about your own period
  • 83% young people (ages 13 – 21) have tried to hide the fact they’re on their periods from those around them

Now, let’s think about those girls and women who simply don’t have access.  Really think about their experience.  The cost for the products that are a need and not a want, skyrocket the farther north you go.  In social media over the past week there have been recent images shared of the prices that period products – and wow.  So not only is the internal and external negative messaging taking place for girls and young women, (and we’re certain adult women as well) around periods, yet families need to make choices around how to ensure girls and women have what they NEED.  Not want.  Need.

The absence of affordable period products in northern First Nations increases the risk that girls will miss school and other opportunities that can help create a solid path for the future.  And that must end.

So, there’s a few things we can do.

Support Tania’s efforts, as she is collaborating with Moon Time Sisters who are helping Indigenous peoples in Northern communities’ access menstrual products and, starting today until November 25th, collecting donations of period products in Kenora where she is based, along with cash donations to ship them north.  We have shipped many bins of materials to the North in our work – and you don’t want to know the cost.  Oof.

So, whether you are in the Kenora region and can drop of donations, or you can contribute to the costs relating to shipping, that’s step one.  You can email donations directly to Tania at tania@taniacameron.com.  Whether it matches the price of the coffee you bought this morning or is something greater – together we can stand alongside First Nations girls and young women to ensure they know that they matter, they are important and they belong.

Yet, there is a need for something deeper here.   Let’s also look how we can tackle the inherent injustice by ensuring decision makers know and understand how many people stand alongside Indigenous girls and women in the north.

In Ontario that can start with writing your local MPP and ensuring that they know – and will communicate your feelings to the government – that the program launched this month in partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart, must include girls and young women living in First Nations as well.

Find your MPP here.

You can also (and really should) email the Minister of Education and Premier Ford to let them know, that you want to see this program expanded to include First Nations schools.

You can get their contact information here and here.

Their response may be rooted in the understanding that First Nations schools are under the jurisdiction of the Federal government – and that they are not responsible, nor do they want to interfere in Crown – Nation relationships.

Yet, how long must First Nations girls and young woman wait to be treated equally?  From what we see, by including these girls in the program, which has the now existing infrastructure in place for Shoppers Drug Mart to distribute the products to school boards across the province, it is responding to a critical need – and whoever can assist, should.

Yet, at the same time – they would be correct in saying that the Federal government is responsible. So, email number three and four would be to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller, and Minister of Indigenous Services, Patty Hajdu, and call on them to quickly, ensure that all First Nations, Métis and Inuit girls and young women have access to period products in their schools, health centres and youth programs – in particular those who have been left behind by provincial governments.

You can get their contact information here and here.

Lastly, through email or social media, reach out to Jeff Leger, the CEO of Shoppers Drug Mart.  He is also the past co-chair of the Loblaw Diversity & Inclusion Council, so, here’s hoping he will have a deeper understanding of how focusing on diversity and inclusion, in theory needs to be followed by actions that demonstrate equity.  Call on him to stand alongside First Nations girls and young women in First Nations, in particular those in the north and choose to include them, or lobby the Ontario government to do so.

And if you identify as male…learn more.  Read, listen, and watch so you can build your knowledge around menstrual health and well-being.   Stop making jokes, using women’s periods as a weapon, or staying silent on the issue.  As men we all have women in our lives.  We might be fathers, sons, brothers, boyfriends, nephews, uncles, co-workers, classmates or friends. It’s critical that we learn more so we can act as allies in fighting the stigma and shame girls have shared they feel, along with campaigning to end period poverty.

The time is now for us all to speak up, stand alongside and give our ten bucks or ten minutes.

It’s time for us to be doers.

Read the two reports by Plan Canada here and here.

Moon Time Sisters is a collective of people who want to help menstruators in northern, remote communities across Canada access menstrual products that they otherwise could not afford. Moon Time Sisters has been able to support over 25 communities since being founded in 2017. Moon Time Sisters is a volunteer-led organization and a project of True North Aid that believes in the power and solidarity of Indigenous menstruators.  Learn more here.

 

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