A row of handbags stretches out across the floor at the Fred Victor-run respite centre at Lambton Arena.
These purses come in all different styles and colours. Some are polka-dotted. Some are striped. A few are made of faux leather. And others are made of nylon. But inside, they all contain the same things. Each purse has tampons, pads and other essential items for people having their period.
They were part of a generous donation provided by the Period Purse – a grassroots organization that “delivers purses filled with tampons, pads, and wellness items directly to homeless, abused, and impoverished menstruators across Canada.” As of June 2018, they’ve donated over 3200 purses through organizations like Fred Victor.
The unfortunate reality is that menstruation is still a taboo subject. And in being perceived this way, there is a lack of access and support that puts people’s health at risk – especially those experiencing homelessness and poverty. In a video by Bustle, homeless women describe how they cope with their periods – having to choose between buying a meal or buying menstrual supplies. Sometimes, even resorting to making their own tampons and pads out of found materials.
While shelters, drop-in centres and other community organizations do their best to supply these products, there is no funding which provides them specifically. Enter Kristyn Wong-Tam. The Toronto Councillor put forward a motion for the City to provide free menstrual supplies to homeless women, youth, and trans individuals. On June 28th, the motion passed 30-1.
Back at Lambton Arena, a handful of women are examining the purses. Some of them see the one they want immediately, and pick it up excitedly. Others take their time, picking up a few before choosing the right one. Amid the tampons and pads that will no doubt make a big difference in their daily lives, the Period Purse makes sure to include a note with every purse. The note reads, in part, “We care about you. We believe in you. We’re rooting for your success.”
Thank you to the Period Purse and Councillor Sarah Doucette for providing this support.
(left to right) Marcia Gilmore, Fred Victor staff; Jana Girdauskas, Founder and Chair of The Period Purse; Councillor Sarah Doucette