The Price of Period Poverty

Dhanya Sivakumar

Did you know 1 in 7 Canadian girls have missed school due to lack of access to period care? The truth is, period poverty is a SERIOUS public health issue and Canadians are paying the price. Access to safe and sanitary menstrual products is a human right. So why are so many Canadians left struggling to afford menstrual products?

What is Period Poverty?

Period poverty is the lack of access to affordable period care products such as pads, tampons, and menstrual cups. According to the University of Michigan School of Public Health, “In lieu of sanitary products, many people are forced to use items like rags, paper towels, toilet paper, or cardboard. Others ration sanitary products by using them for extended amounts of time. Period poverty encompasses not only this lack of access to products, but also inadequate access to toilets, hand washing receptacles, and hygienic waste management.” The use of unsanitary menstrual products and prolonged use of menstrual products can result in dangerous infections and Toxic Shock Syndrome. Period poverty is a public health crisis that MUST be prioritized.

hands holding a tampon

According to Plan Canada, more than half of Canadian women have reported missing school, work, or social activities due to lack of access to period care products. It is estimated that Canadian women spend up to $6000 in their lifetime on menstrual products.
“For a lot of people like students, low-income and homeless women and girls, transgender and nonbinary individuals, and those who are currently in prison, they all struggle with period poverty, whether it be for economic reasons that they're not able to afford them, for access reasons where they're not given the proper amount of products, or because they're not given the most hygienic products in their situations.” — Gabriela Lopez-Castillo (College Senior, PERIOD Youth Advisory Council)

When menstrual products remain inaccessible and costly, Canadians end up paying the price:

The price of period poverty

Stigmas and Taboos

Affordable access to period care products is a basic necessity, a human right. So why is this public health issue being ignored? When you enter a public bathroom you don’t pay for toilet paper, so why are period care products not treated the same? Why are period care products not readily and freely available as well?

Unfortunately, stigmas and taboos surrounding menstruation silence necessary conversations on period poverty. “Stigma associates menstruation with uncleanliness and disgust instead of recognizing it as biologically healthy and normal. The shame associated with periods prevents people from talking about it, which in turn averts dialogues about access to products, the tampon tax, and even the ingredients in our pads and tampons.” — Ashley Rapp and Sidonie Kilpatrick, University of Michigan School of Public Health

We NEED to be talking about periods, and we NEED to be talking about period poverty. We need to be having these conversations in our legislative buildings, in our schools, and in our homes. "When we end these stigmas surrounding menstruation, that's crucial to ending period poverty. When we normalize the topic of periods and being able to speak about it freely with our peers and within our community, we'll be able to normalize it so much so that it will become more of a priority in our communities and our legislative bodies and for eradicating it as a whole." — Gabriela Lopez-Castillo (College Senior, PERIOD Youth Advisory Council)

Times are Changing

Although period poverty persists, times are changing. In 2020, Scotland became the 1st country in the world to make all period products freely available! And beginning June 2021, New Zealand will be offering free menstrual products in schools to fight period poverty. In Canada, British Columbia issued an order to make period products free in all public schools! And across Canada, advocacy groups are calling for period care products to become freely available in all public buildings.

As shared by Canadian politician Mitzi Dean, “Having your period is a part of life, and easy and affordable access to menstrual products should be simple”.

What’s Next?

We want to continue normalizing period conversations and building a supportive network for people who menstruate. To learn more about period poverty contact us at, subscribe to our newsletter, or connect with us on social media! Thank you for reading! Don’t forget to wear your masks, wash your hands, and stay safe!

- Ruth


Sources: Plan Canada, Canadian Public Health Association, BBC, CBC, PERIOD, University of Michigan School of Public Health and Government of British Columbia