Imagine, you’re starting your life over, from scratch, with not much more than the clothes on your back. You don’t even have basic essentials, like a hairbrush, or period care items. 

This is the reality for most women who are released after incarceration. They’re given the items they had when they were taken in, and not much more. Then, they’re sent “home” with those possessions in a clear plastic bag, putting their few belongings on public display and broadcasting them as former inmates in the process, fostering feelings of humiliation and shame. 

No person should be without essentials, like period care, which is why Elizabeth Fry Society of Cape Breton (Elizabeth Fry CB) decided to act and launched their newest program, Start Backpack.  

Founded in 1974, the Elizabeth Fry CB is a non-profit organization that advocates for criminalized women by way of working to ensure their fair treatment while going through the justice system. 

The Start Backpack program offers backpacks with toiletries and other essential items to women when they are released. Emily MacAskill, assistant program coordinator at Elizabeth Fry CB, recently reached out to our CSR program, DivaCares, for donation of the DivaCup Model 1 and 2 to include in the backpacks 

“This program is designed to help criminalized women feel like they are important and worthy of being in the community. It gives them a sense of self and belonging when they are given products to help their transition back into society a bit easier,” Emily said.  

Over the last few months, Elizabeth Fry CB has been collecting donations in order to get the program running. Emily said it was a challenge, but they are finally getting enough donations, including DivaCups, to be able to start sending out their backpacks. 

“About four years ago I did some research and bought my first DivaCup. It was by far the best decision I’ve ever made for my body. I was shocked at the number of women who didn’t know about menstrual cups.”   

She made it her own personal mission to educate her friends and family about the many benefits of the DivaCup (eco-friendly, reusable, wearable for up to 12 hours and cost-effective). This was the inspiration to include the DivaCup in the Start Backpack program. 

“… I knew I had to try to help women everywhere have safer periods with an amazing product they could take with them wherever they go,” Emily said, “I am hoping to gain the satisfaction of knowing that so manywomen are being given this incredible product to have and to help make their lives so much easier.” 

Emily does what she can to help her community and to protect those who are unable to do so for themselves. She hopes the success of the backpack program offered through Elizabeth Fry encourages and inspires other organizations and individuals to give back to their communities and do what they can to help other people. 

“This is important to me because the DivaCup has changed my life and if it can change the lives of other women in my community, I want to do anything I can to make it happen.” 

Although it might seem like a small gesture, to be given a backpack with basic essentials (like period care items), to women returning to their lives with very little, it can mean so much more. Having access to menstrual care products has a huge effect on a person’s freedom to live their life with basic dignity, something we all deserve. 

Through partnerships and programming, DivaCares is working to create a world where menstruation is a fact of life, not life-limiting. That’s why DivaCares works with passionate organizations like Elizabeth Fry CB, in the hopes we can help ease the difficult transition these women face when reintegrating into their communities.