To help vulnerable people live with the dignity we all deserve, small acts of local love can make a big difference. That’s what inspired 17-year-old Krystle Sievert to help tackle period poverty.
Krystle is a student at Clayton Heights Secondary. Clayton Heights is a burgeoning neighbourhood in Surrey, where United Way is working with residents to foster community connection.
In her Family Studies course, Krystle and her classmates studied period poverty around the world. They were shocked to hear sanitary items top the list of what local women’s shelters lack most.
“My peers and I knew something had to be done,” says Krystle.
Never too young to organize
In February Krystle and her friends created personalized boxes and posters highlighting period poverty. Then donations poured in from the community. The student-led annual fundraiser coincided with United Way’s Period Promise campaign. Clearly momentum to tackle period poverty is gaining ground, locally and globally.
“I learned that there is a long way to go to normalize period talk and to ultimately support and help girls, women, and trans folks in my community,” says Krystle.
Nevertheless, response to the campaign has been so positive, Krystle is ready to mobilize on a wider scale.
“We all knew that getting the word out to our community was the start of helping those silently struggling,” says Krystle. “Now I want to run multiple drives in a year, even reach out to other high schools and continue expanding our reach.”
From individual acts to social change
Like Krystle, Dr. Selina Tribe is on a mission. This professor and Vancouver resident wants to see a stocked, coin-free tampon and pad dispenser in every washroom outside the home.
“Period products are no different than toilet paper and just as essential,” she says.
Soon after advocating that schools provide free and accessible menstrual products, Selina joined forces with United Way’s Period Promise campaign. They sat side-by-side as the New Westminster School Board voted to provide free pads and tampons in washrooms, as a district-wide policy.
But Selina is just getting started, and continues to meet with policy-makers across the Lower Mainland.
“I tell them how essential menstrual products are for people to engage fully in school, work and the activities of a full life,” she says. “If a person cannot manage their period, they will avoid activities like sports or extracurriculars, they might go home early or stay home from school.”
For Selina, promoting free access to menstrual products everywhere is just part of how we make the places we live, learn, work, and play, better for everybody.
Best of both worlds: Period products in the workplace
Patrick Johnson couldn’t agree more.
“Access to menstrual products is one of the many ways that poverty impacts folks,” says Patrick, Secretary-Treasurer for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1518. The union, which represents over 20,000 workers in a range of health and agriculture industries, has brought United Way’s Period Promise campaign to their members’ worksites, and to their own union office.
“United Way has done a phenomenal job of providing education to the union staff and executive board on this issue,” says Patrick. “We now know that both UFCW 1518 staff and members have a role to play in campaign for access to menstrual products.”
Throughout United Way’s Period Promise campaign, UFCW 1518 has supported members as they led collection drives at Safeway, Save-On Foods and Urban Fare locations, as well as Interior Health, Sunrise Poultry, and other worksites across the province.
Running a campaign is easy as placing a box in the staff room with a Period Promise poster. What’s more, collection drives have been made even easier with the support of partners like LifeLabs, which is generously collecting donations from Shoppers Drug Mart stores across the Lower Mainland.
But that’s not all. On March 7th, representatives from UFCW 1518 signed the Period Promise Policy Agreement, a framework researched and developed by United Way, with support from Vancity. Since then the union has provided free and accessible menstrual products in their office washrooms to employees and guests.
“It’s clear from the immediate pick-up from members that everyone wants to ensure that poverty is not a barrier to accessing menstrual products any longer.”
United Way’s Period Promise campaign runs until April 4th. It’s not too late to get involved! Make your Period Promise today.
Collecting donations in your union, workplace or community? See your amazing community impact! RSVP to our campaign celebration event April 4th.
– Story and photos courtesy of United Way