British Columbia

'Period Posse' helps with high cost of menstrual needs

A gripe about the high cost of tampons led Lindsay Shaw to launch a donation drive for menstrual products to help women experiencing poverty and homelessness.

Organizer worried how poor, homeless afford the high cost of tampons and pads

Lindsay Shaw said more than $900 in tampons, pads and cash were donated in the first two days of the Period Posse's menstrual products drive. (Neil Barney)

At a time of year when many people donate to help those less fortunate, a Victoria group hopes to fill a need that is rarely mentioned in polite company.

The Period Posse is looking for donations of menstrual products.

The group launched its campaign Tuesday at Sandy Merriman House, a Victoria women's shelter. 

 Lindsay Shaw, one of the organizers for the Period Posse, told On the Island host Gregor Craigie  she came up with the idea while walking downtown and complaining to a friend about the high price of tampons.

"I saw someone asking for money and I thought, how would they buy this?"

"So, I went home, did a little bit of googling, made a few phone calls," Shaw said. "I realized there was a huge need for menstrual products in our city." 

Shaw said with an average-sized box of tampons costing about $7 at big box stores and closer to $10 in urban areas, people living on the margins have to choose between those and other necessities such as food or medication every month. 

She said they are not common donations to food banks and other charities but are in high demand.

The Period Posse set up donation boxes at more than a dozen businesses around Victoria and formally launched its menstrual product drive on Tuesday. In the first two days before the official kickoff, Shaw said, more than $900 in cash and products were received. 

Donations will be forward to the Victoria Cool Aid Society for distribution to residents of the Rock Bay Landing shelter and Sandy Merriman House.

"I really feel like we've struck a chord," Shaw said. 

She attributed the lack of attention to the issue to "period stigma."

"We don't like to talk about menstruation, which, I think, is why people don't think to donate menstrual products to these organizations, even though there is this incredible need."

Shaw first focused on the issues of "menstrual equity" in a UVic class assignment several years ago. She has learned in her research, that, until 2015, tampons were subject to a luxury tax, while wedding cakes and cocktail cherries were not.

The menstrual products donation drive continues until Dec. 20.