The holiday season has always been a time for generosity. Many people are looking for ways to support their communities and help bring a little extra comfort to their friends, families, and neighbors. This year has created unprecedented levels of need with COVID-19 impacting the lives and livelihoods of many in our communities.

Over the past year, DivaCares has seen increased difficulty in people being able to access period care on a regular basis, especially due to the cost of period products and the fact that many people have suffered job loss due to the pandemic. This is also known as period poverty. Period poverty is one of the main focuses of the menstrual equity movement which seeks to build a world where barriers to having a dignified period such as prohibitive costs of product, lack of menstrual education, and little standardization for product safety, are removed for all people with periods.

Our DivaCares program donates thousands of cups each year to help alleviate period poverty, but many people ask, “What can I do about it in my community?” Below are some great ways that you can help address period poverty and build menstrual equity in your own backyard this holiday season.

1. Start your own, or support a local period product drive:

Did you know that period products are one of the most requested yet least donated item for many organizations? Hosting a period product drive is a simple, but super impactful way that you can create greater access to period care in your community. Ask your friends and family to donate unopened pads, tampons, menstrual cups, or period underwear to you and then drop them off at a local organization such as a foodbank, shelter, or community program. You can make your drive as small or large as you like. Work with your local schools, your employer, or simply leave a basket on your front porch for COVID-safe drop offs. Every single product helps to increase menstrual equity in our communities.

Many retailers also have their own period product drives. The next time you are in a grocery store or pharmacy be on the lookout for donation bins that are requesting period products. All you have to do is buy an extra pack of period products and drop them off in the bins on your way out. Haven’t seen any donation bins around? Get in touch with local businesses and ask if they would be willing to hold a donation drive in support of local menstruators.

If COVID is still presenting a large challenge in your area, and dropping off physical donations is too risky, then consider fundraising and donating money to local

organization for the purpose of buying period products. You can also donate gift cards and cash cards to give the recipient the option to buy the period products that they want to use the most. A few notable organizations accepting funding include… Being able to care for your period the way you want to is a huge part of the menstrual equity movement. Another option is to buy a period product from an organization that donates one to an organization in need or that provides support those in the Global South.

2. Push for greater access in your workplace:

Work with your employer to lower barriers to period care by providing period care products in your employee and public washrooms. This is a small, but powerful change that helps to destigmatize periods. No one thinks it is weird to see toilet paper in a washroom, so why shouldn’t we feel the same way about period products? A great way to start this conversation in to come prepared with a preliminary budget for buying period products that can be incorporated with the other office supplies. You can also look at holding quarterly 50/50 drives with other employees where 50% of donated product goes to a local organization and 50% stays in office to support the washroom period supply baskets.

3. Talk about periods, period.

One of the reasons that period poverty even exists is because of the stigma and shame that still exists around menstruation. We see this in how we even refer to periods e.g. ‘that time of the month.’ Aunt Flow, or The Curse. These euphemisms, while sometimes cute, keep periods in the realm of mystery and shame.

Challenge yourself to talk openly and frankly about periods, especially with young people about to get theirs. Knowing that periods are natural and not shameful goes a long way to being able to start tackling the large issues like period poverty because people will have the language to describe how they are being affected. If you need help with how to talk about periods here are some awesome resources:

However you want to build menstrual equity in your community this holiday season, the most important step is the start somewhere. Whether that’s a product drive, putting pads out in your company’s bathroom, or just working towards increasing your comfort with talking about periods, all of these steps are helping to build a world where menstruation is a fact of life and not life limiting.