Campaign aims to end period stress for low-income women

A Halifax woman has launched a campaign to raise money for reusable silicone menstrual cups, an alternative to disposal pads and tampons, for women living in poverty.

Reusable menstrual cups that can last for several years will be donated to local non-profits

Suzanne Lively says she hopes to raise $15,000 and purchase 500 Diva Cups. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

Suzanne Lively says women are forced to flush hundreds of dollars a year down the toilet and she wants it to stop.

The Halifax woman has launched a campaign to raise money for reusable silicone menstrual cups — an alternative to disposal pads and tampons.

She plans on donating them to 10 local organizations that work with low-income women, including Adsum for Women and Children, the YWCA and Bryony House. 

"One of the things that happens when people are struggling to have the basic necessities is, unfortunately, hygiene products are one of the first things to go out the window," said Lively.  "And for women that's an even bigger issue because just because we're having money problems doesn't mean our monthly cycle stops.

"Women have much more complex and bigger challenges than men even do in low-income situations."

The Friendly Divas campaign has raised $2,400 in the first month. The brand of cup Lively plans to buy retail for approximately $30 and can last for several years.

The reusable cups are an alternative to pads or tampons and can be used for several years. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

Stephanie Sabean, co-ordinator of Phoenix Youth, said she wasn't familiar with the product but the young women she works with were enthusiastic. 

The shelter provides feminine hygiene products but Sabean said when people are out on their own it can be a challenge, especially when they are on social assistance.

"For someone who has an income of $325 a month, your first thing you need to think about is your food, your children. All those daily living costs. Having to spend $10 to $15 on your period … it's not always put into the budget every month," she said. 

Sabean said the silicone product wouldn't work for everyone, since they require access to washrooms where they can be cleaned, but she said they could reduce stress for others.

Already, she said, young people have been asking when the donated supplies will arrive. 

"Not having to worry about that fee every month for one to five years, that adds up — quite a savings," Sabean said. 

Taboo about periods still persists

Lively said women should never have to worry about whether they're able to go to work or school when they're on their period and hopes the cups will offer some people a little more dignity. 

Her goal is to raise $15,000, enough for about 500 cups, and she's encouraging people to donate boxes of tampons as well.

Lively, who said she's sworn by the product for years herself, said periods are still a subject that people are reluctant to discuss, a taboo that's overdue for change.

"I think it needs to be spoken of," she said. "I have a daughter coming up the ranks too, and I don't want her to have body shame." 

About the Author

Elizabeth McMillan

Elizabeth McMillan is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Over the past eight years, she has reported from the edge of the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Coast and loves sharing people's stories. She can be found on twitter @elizmcmillan.