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The difference between period poverty and universal access for low-income Haligonians 

Acknowledging that menstural products should be treated like toilet paper is good. Eliminating period poverty is better

Gayle Collicutt is an anti-poverty advocate in Halifax, who has experienced the struggles first-hand faced by Nova Scotians experiencing poverty. - KYLEE NUNN
  • Gayle Collicutt is an anti-poverty advocate in Halifax, who has experienced the struggles first-hand faced by Nova Scotians experiencing poverty.

A s the clock approaches 8pm, your long and tedious work day is coming to a close. You can soon head home to help your children with their homework and tuck them into bed.

You head to the staff area for your belongings as soon as the clock strikes eight, but on your way you feel unexpected moisture in your underwear. Your period has come earlier than usual, and you have no supplies until payday. Anxiety washes over you as you rush to the bathroom to stuff toilet paper in your underwear; you need to make the next bus that will take you to the closest library so you can grab free menstrual products.  

Your period's unexpected arrival has made you miss your bus, so you won't make it to the library before close. You break down in tears.You will have to call in sick tomorrow so you can go to the library for products, then take out a payday loan to cover the lost wages that resulted from your period so your children do not go without.

Your period is a crisis every month.  You use pads and tampons far longer than you should, putting you at greater risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. Period poverty impacts your hygiene, health and mental wellness. It prevents you from partaking in your community and affects employment and education, making you depressed, isolated and anxious.

This is the anxiety and oppression that comes with period poverty, when you don't have the resources to buy the products you require every month.

Calling for universal access is acknowledging that menstrual products should be treated the same as toilet paper and soap in public washrooms. Improving universal access is part of ending period poverty, but it won't abolish the injustice low income and homeless menstruators cope with up to one week a month, sometimes even longer due to reproductive health issues such as endometriosis.

Every public washroom could have the necessary supplies for menstruation, but many menstruators will still be oppressed. They're minimum wage workers, working two to three jobs just to keep the lights on and eviction notices at bay. The homeless, whose cycles can become irregular due to the stress their situation has on their physiology. Rural menstruators, who lack the means to travel to public washrooms with free products.

How can we end this oppression?  

The Halifax Public LIbraries has led the way by recognizing periods as part of health, and putting supplies in every washroom. Halifax Regional Council is looking at putting products in all municipal buildings—not just libraries—like gyms and recreation centres. This coming fall the sitting provincial government can make the next step by passing Bill 126, which will make Nova Scotia the first province in Canada to have its own period poverty legislation, by considering menstruation in the Employment Support and Income Assistance Act. And then get down to business to create legislation that will provide economic relief for all menstruators experiencing this discrimination in our province.


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