An Edmonton-based non-profit that distributes menstrual products to women in need is expanding to BC this year thanks to a partnership with a grocery delivery service leveraging its collection system to collect tampon and pad donations.
All February long, SPUD delivery and its sister Blush Lane grocery stores will accept menstrual product donations in its used grocery bins for No Woman Without, a non-profit with a mission to make sure no woman needs to forego tampons or pads because she can’t afford them.
“Just like toilet paper is given freely, I think tampons and pads should be the exact same,” said Scarlet Bjornson, founder of No Woman Without.
The Edmonton resident started the non-profit three years ago after an encounter with a woman on the street asking for change. Bjornson gave the woman some cash and asked her what it was for. The woman told Bjornson she would use the money to buy tampons.
“That really sat with me,” Bjornson said.
A third of women and girls in Canada have had to sacrifice something else in their budget to afford menstrual products, according to a 2019 survey by Nanos for Plan International Canada.
“When you have to choose between paying rent, feeding yourself and your children, etc., the things that often end up falling off at the end of the month are things like … menstrual products,” said Janice Abbott, CEO of Vancouver-based Atira Women’s Society.
Not having access to menstrual products restricts women’s freedom, since it’s harder to go outside, to work, or to school if you’re scared of leaking in public, Abbott said.
Sometimes women who can’t afford tampons or pads will use clothes to soak up the blood, since clothing donations are more plentiful, she added. But disposing of soiled rags can be a problem, since trying to flush them can result in plumbing blockages.
“I think people underestimate how significant of a problem this is for women who are poor,” Abbott said.
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To donate, SPUD delivery customers can leave menstrual products in their empty food-delivery bins to be brought to the warehouse. Blush Lane customers can drop off donations in store.
The company is also accepting donations attached to online orders of their Organyc menstrual products.
Period products are “overlooked items that are not frequently donated,” said Adam Steinson, an Edmonton-based store manager with Blush Lane.
Last year, Steinson said they gave about $20,000 worth of pads and tampons to women’s organizations in Alberta. It’s the third year the campaign is running in Edmonton, and the first they’re extending it to Vancouver.
Bjornson thinks stigma surrounding periods is one reason why these products aren’t donated as much, and would like to see bigger strides made, such as making products available for free in public bathrooms, like BC schools did last year.
“For women and menstruators living in vulnerable situations, it can really add a lot of stress and struggle,” Bjornson said.