A local organization working to provide affordable and accessible menstrual products to rural communities in northern Canada is currently accepting donations.
Moon Time Sisters BC was established by Carly Pistawka and Neha Menon in October 2020 as the third chapter of the Moon Time Sisters (MTS), a project of the True North Aid charity.
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“We talk about the period inequity present in Africa and how girls will miss school due to having a lack of products. We don’t, however, talk about how this is a problem in Canada too,” Pistawka told Daily Hive.
“Since Canada is so vast, there are a ton of remote isolated communities, especially up north. There also are lots of communities in BC only accessible by boat.”
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The difficulty to access these communities makes product prices a lot higher than in Metro Vancouver. A small box of tampons in rural northern communities can cost between $18 to $20 compared to around $7 to $8 a box in bigger cities.
Originally founded in 2017 in Saskatchewan by Nicole White, a Metis woman, Moon Time Sisters aims to shorten the gap of period inequality and promote power and solidarity in northern Indigenous communities.
“Nicole started MTS after hearing stories of how young women in northern Saskatchewan would miss school because they did not have menstrual products available due to their high price,” explained Pistawka.
Now, both BC and Ontario have created their own chapter for similar reasons.
“When it comes down to it, women shouldn’t have to choose between food and water and their menstrual products, but when they do, this leads to women missing school or work because they don’t have products available,” Pistawka told Daily Hive.
Although Moon Time Sisters BC is a newer chapter, it has already managed two small donation drives for communities in northern BC and received a $10,000 donation in February.
“Since our chapter is relatively new, our drives so far have been small (around 1,000 products), but the Ontario chapter’s fall drive in 2020 collected over 200,000 products. We definitely hope to get there someday,” explained Pistawka.
Moon Time Sisters BC relies on product and financial donations as a non-profit. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization finds that it is easier to receive financial donations online, although they are still accepting pick up product donations. Those wishing to donate online should include MTS BC in the description to ensure their donations are specified for that chapter.
MTS BC is able to pick up at various spots across the Lower Mainland. There are also two addresses to mail to, which you can find on their Instagram. There is also an Amazon Wishlist where you can buy products that they will send up north.
“In terms of products, the general order of priority of products is pads, tampons, reusable pads, reusable cups,” explained Pistawka.
“Pads are the most commonly used product for menstruators. There is a preference for thin pads instead of maxi pads, which can be very big and uncomfortable. We try to only send up products that we would use, as cheap brands can feel like sandpaper, and no one wants that.”
Pistawka added that MTS BC is very careful when it comes to what kinds of menstrual products communities need and makes sure that their donations fit their realities.
“Reusable products might not be useful depending on the community, as some do not have clean water access to wash and sanitize the products. We always ask communities which they would like to have sent up, because this can vary between communities,” she said.
“Feeling like we can donate anything is a very Western way of looking at it. It is not our decision when it comes to product use for menstruation, because everyone has preferences. We are always accepting reusable products, but they will only be sent to communities that have an interest in them.”
With Scotland recently announcing that they were making all period products free, Pistawka hopes that this can be a future for Canada as well.
“Before we can get there, though, we need to address the inequity we see across the country. While BC provides free tampons and pads in many BC schools now, which was determined in the BC Period Promise, we have found by talking to communities that this is not the case in many remote BC communities. Since it is not really talked about on mainstream media, this is not common knowledge,” Pistawka explained.
She added that many organizations try to cover this gap by providing products to places such as Greater Vancouver Women’s Shelter.
“While this is great, and is a definite need, it is very important to also be supporting those in Indigenous communities,” she said. “This is what we hope to do with Moon Time Sisters.”