Lunapads is based in Vancouver, Canada, easily one of the most beautiful cities on earth. Out our front windows, the North Shore mountains gaze down on a city full of beautiful parks, great culture and shiny, glassy condo buildings that twinkle against the sun and the sea. It is also one of the most unaffordable cities on the planet.
For those who don’t know Vancouver, housing and homelessness is a persistent and endemic challenge. Although it can be found throughout the city, poverty is the most notorious characteristic of the Downtown Eastside. Located just a few blocks from Lunapads HQ, it is a stretch of the city known for its drug use and deep poverty, as well as community activism and proud resilience. Many residents of the Downtown Eastside rely on social assistance to survive. This means that they have to make it work on just $710 a month.
In a city with rents as high as they are in Vancouver, that typically means living in a single-resident occupancy hotel, or SRO. It’s Vancouver’s polite word for slum. A Globe and Mail exposé of some of the city’s most notorious SROs revealed toilets overflowing with feces and needles, rodent infestations and holes in walls. Despite these appalling conditions, rents in private SROs keep climbing.
Organizations such as Raise the Rates have worked for years to draw attention to this problem. They work the numbers, showing how life on welfare is literally unliveable. A 2017 budget allotted $548 a month for rent, $68 for required costs to look for work like bus tickets and a cheap phone, $19 a week for food and just $10 for hygiene. Just ten bucks.
You can’t have a period on welfare in BC.
So let’s do some menstrual math. It is $6 for a box of menstrual pads at local retailer London Drugs. That leaves $4 for laundry, soap and toothpaste. Tough luck if you ruin your underwear or need some Advil for cramps.
So, yeah. You can’t have a period on welfare in BC.
As an company that has advocated repeatedly that access to menstrual supplies is necessary to lift yourself out of poverty, we’ve been recognized for our work in the Global South. We’re less known for our work in the local community - and that’s okay, because we’re not looking for a cookie. We donate reusables through the United Way of the Lower Mainland and PERIOD, both organizations working hard to bring menstrual supplies to those who need it - thousands of dollars worth of pads and underwear. We have donated our period boxer brief to support trans menstruators who struggle with poverty. We advocate for all efforts to remove the tampon tax and increase accessibility. We’re angry about continued period poverty, because it’s beyond unacceptable. It’s the patriarchy in its purest form.
We’re angry about continued period poverty, because it’s beyond unacceptable. It’s the patriarchy in its purest form.
To be honest, our product donations have their limits. To adopt reusables, you need access to clean water and washing facilities, something that makes Lunapads hard to use in a crisis situation. Trust us - this is a crisis situation. However, we’re not giving up. Instead, we’re asking you to help us take action.
If you live in BC, call or email your MLA and ask them to take action to support welfare recipients. If you live elsewhere, call your local representative. This problem is everywhere.
Donate disposable menstrual supplies - host an office drive, drop off products at your local food bank or call your local women’s shelter for ideas. If anyone gets squicky because you keep mentioning periods, point out that the needs of poor menstruators outweigh their hang-ups about vaginas.
Resist period shame. The menstrual taboo prevents honest and open conversation around reproductive health and the basic need to have a dignified period. It hurts everyone who has a period, especially the most vulnerable amongst us.
On Giving Tuesday 2018, Lunapads will donate $10 for every sale we make and $1 for every time this article is shared on social media. We’ll be sending the funds to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, one of Vancouver’s most outstanding feminist organizations.
Let’s stand up for each other. Every day.
Image from Flickr user AlexMH17. Used under Creative Commons.