After a remarkable four weeks, United Way’s Period Promise campaign, presented by Pacific Blue Cross, ended April 4. It resulted in hundreds of thousands of donated menstrual products – and so much more.
When you’re vulnerable or living in poverty, access to menstrual products can be challenging. Period Promise mobilized local citizens to be a part of the solution.
From March 7 to April 4 supporters rallied to organize a collection drive or donate menstrual products. Leaders also encouraged organizations to commit to providing free menstrual products in their own washrooms.
The community response was overwhelming.
“We are blown away by the support we’ve received,” says Sussanne Skidmore, Secretary Treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour and volunteer co-chair of this year’s campaign.
“People clearly care about tackling period poverty,” adds Sussanne. “We’ve made a major impact when it comes to ending stigma and isolation. To everyone who participated, a heartfelt thank you.”
Dignity in every donation
Donations are still en route to United Way of the Lower Mainland’s offices in Burnaby. But as of April 4, organizers estimate the campaign netted over 500,000 donated tampons, pads, menstrual cups and underwear. This is more than twice the 220,000 donated products in 2018.
In the coming weeks, donations will be delivered to local community agencies, like Aunt Leah’s Place. Aunt Leah’s helps strengthen life skills for young mothers and children in foster care.
“Having menstrual products for our youth is essential for them to have a healthy body and mind,” says Pam Costello, Directors of Operations at Aunt Leah’s Place.
“Thank you for helping provide this much-needed and often forgotten health need.”
Change through collaboration and commitments
Local unions like MoveUP, the BCGEU (B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union), and USW 2009 (United Steel Workers) played a key leadership role in the campaign. These longtime United Way partners led donation drives and spoke out against menstrual stigma. What’s more, several committed to providing free menstrual products in their own facilities, for their members and guests.
The Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) was one of the first labour organizations to sign on to the Period Promise Policy Agreement, researched and developed by United Way with support from Vancity.
“Managing menstruation is a health issue, and it’s an equity issue,” says HEU President, Barb Nederpel.
“No one should have their health or dignity compromised because they can’t afford period products. Our union fully supports the growing movement for period equity and the call to make menstrual products available for all – when and where they need them.”
Meanwhile, in one of the largest campaigns province-wide, staff at 34 Shoppers Drug Mart stores gifted piles of pads, tampons and other menstrual products, with pick-up generously provided by LifeLabs.
Over 65 diverse organizations participated in United Way’s Period Promise campaign this year, from unions representing trades, municipal, and health-care workers, to engine manufacturers like Cummins and law firms such as Harris & Co.
Taking part in the Period Promise campaign was a natural fit for organizations committed to health promotion –like Pacific Blue Cross, the campaign’s presenting sponsor.
“We know good health is key for a fulfilling life, but period poverty puts this at risk,” says Rob Chiarello, the Senior Vice President of People and Culture at Pacific Blue Cross.
“As part of our mission to improve health and wellbeing for British Columbians, we are proud to support the Period Promise campaign.”
Social change that benefits everyone
Several public institutions also heeded our call to provide free and accessible menstrual products in their washrooms, as part of the campaign.
The issue gained incredible momentum after the Board of Education for New Westminster School adopted such a policy February 26. The decision was inspired by Dr. Selina Tribe, local professor and mother who has been advocating for free menstrual products in schools across the Lower Mainland.
Campaign leaders and champions are encouraged to hear a province-wide policy is now under consideration by the Ministry of Education and the B.C. School Trustees’ Association.
“Donations make a concrete difference in people’s lives, right now,” explains campaign co-chair Nikki Hill. “But by partnering with government, we can also create change on a wider scale.”
“We’re encouraged to see the Government of B.C. taking a leadership role when it comes to tackling period poverty.”
Sustaining a community of change-makers
While the 2019 campaign has come to an end, citizen action to tackle period poverty certainly won’t.
“Now that the campaign is over, we want to keep the momentum going,” says Neal Adolph, who says a working group will soon be formed for anyone interested in tackling period poverty, year-round.
“When we pair United Way programs and donations with the passion of local citizens – that’s when we see sustainable solutions, long-term.”
“We can’t wait to see what local change-makers do next.”