By Reedah Hayder
The Eliminate Period Poverty campaign by Ryerson’s Centre for Safer Sex & Sexual Violence Support (CSSSVS) will be providing students with free and accessible menstrual products during exam season.
The kick-off party on Oct. 4 was organized by the CSSSVS in collaboration with Toronto Red Dot Project and the Help a Girl Out Charity, a non-profit that provides menstrual products to women in need.
Speakers at the event talked about issues revolving around period poverty—a lack of access to menstrual education and products—and how these organizations are working to tackle these issues.
“When I moved to Canada from Jamaica, I thought I had escaped period poverty but it’s not just a third-world problem,” said Yanique Brandford, founder of nonprofit Help a Girl Out. “It’s a hidden issue in the first-world because no one wants to talk about it.”
“There’s a lot of stigma around periods. Even now when I talk to my mom about my charity, it’s a difficult subject,” said Brandford.
Maryam Mohamed, a first-year digital arts student, said while it’s hard to break the stigma around periods, it’s an important topic to talk about.
“It’s still hard to talk about but I think events like this [the Eliminate Period Poverty party] helps students know that it’s OK to talk about it,” said Mohamed.
This year, members from Help a Girl Out will be travelling to Jamaica during Christmas time to provide 600 middle school girls from five schools with menstrual products.
The Eyeopener previously reported in Janary 2019 on visiting 102 washrooms in 14 buildings on campus after seeing sanitary napkin dispensers across campus were empty and that the university was not planning to restock. Seventy-one washrooms had no dispenser and 31 had an empty one still advertising prices ranging from 10 cents to a dollar. There were no signs on the machines indicating they were empty.
CSSSVS provides easy access to free menstrual products year round at their office at the Student Campus Centre.
Last spring, Ryerson’s CSSSVS saved students $4,000 in menstrual products during exam season according to Sydney Bothwell, a full-time coordinator for the CSSSVS. This semester, they are working to double that number.
All Ryerson buildings will be stocked with various menstrual products including pads, tampons, liners and personal wipes during the two week exam period.
The CSSSVS will have 40 volunteers and five coordinators going around Monday to Friday, restocking menstrual baskets in washrooms with products.
“We are currently talking to other student groups at UofT and other institutions who are working to eliminate period poverty among the homeless population,” said Bothwell.
There was also Make-Your-Own Period “Survival” Kit station that invited students to fill powder bags with their choice of menstrual products including personal wipes, period underwear and mini chocolates.
The CSSSVS event also touched on the need for better education around periods in school.
Bothwell said that the centre is hoping to have more events like the Eliminate Period Poverty party. “We’re considering to have it next semester as well, prior to the exam season. The Make-Your-Own Period ‘Survival’ Kit station was a huge hit with students so we hope to incorporate that as well.”