Woman who hands out 'Period Purses' amazed by response from Torontonians

A Toronto woman who began handing out purses filled with pads and tampons to women living in the streets says she is overwhelmed by the response from the community since her appearance on CBC Toronto's Metro Morning just over two months ago.

The Period Purse team has a 'packing party' Saturday evening at 7 p.m.

Jana Girdauskas says she is overwhelmed by the donations she has been receiving from her community. (The Period Purse)

A Toronto woman who began handing out purses filled with pads and tampons to women living in the streets says she is overwhelmed by the response from the community since her appearance on CBC Toronto's Metro Morning just over two months ago.

The thought of menstruating and having limited or no access to feminine hygiene products is what led Jana Girdauskas to come up with The Period Purse earlier this year. By February, she had handed out 11 purses filled with tampons, pads and feminine hygiene products to homeless women or those living in shelters. 

Other than pads, tampons and feminine hygiene products, the purses also include scarves, deodorants and coffee gift cards. (Jana Girdauskas)

Since then, more than 750 purses have been handed out. The idea of Period Purses has also expanded to seven other cities. 

"I think it's something so simple and basic and a natural body process that all women go through so I think it is hitting people that it is not our choice, it is needed and we know how expensive those products can be," Girdauskas said.

She said she has received support from all kinds of people, from senior retirement homes to high schools. 

"A six-year-old girl didn't want Easter chocolate or presents …She wanted her family to donate. A six-year-old went out and bought tampons and pads," she said.

"A mother passed away and her son — that one makes me cry — he donated her stuff to us."

More than 750 period purses have been handed out to homeless women in Toronto. (Jana Girdauskas)

Girdauskas, a working mother with two young children, thought the enthusiasm initiative would fade over time but it has only gotten more popular. She now has a team of volunteers helping her organize packing parties.

"A lot of people [are] donating their talents and services. We are now a corporate non-profit organization," she said. 

The Period Purse has a "packing party" Saturday evening at 7 p.m. at Kimbourne Park United Church in the upper Beach area where volunteers will put together more purses to hand out. 

The team has also launched a new website where people can volunteer and find out what and where to donate. 

The Period Purse team has launched a new website where people can volunteer and find out what and where to donate: www.theperiodpurse.com (The Period Purse)

Other than feminine hygiene products, the purses also include a variety of things, such as scarves, deodorants and coffee gift cards.

"I think people have really attached to the idea. It's simple; you can just open your closet and pull out some toiletries and feminine products and an extra purse, Girdauskas said. 

 "It's opening minds and starting uncomfortable conversations." 

The Period Purse is a Toronto initiative that involved filling handbags with feminine hygiene products and handing them out to homeless women. (Jana Girdauskas)

About the Author

Ramna Shahzad

Producer, CBC Toronto

Ramna Shahzad is a multi-media producer and reporter in the CBC Toronto newsroom. She began working at CBC News in 2015 as a Joan Donaldson Scholar. Born in Karachi, Pakistan, she now calls Toronto home and writes about everything from transit and city hall to baby animal births at the zoo