B.C. has committed $750,000 in funding to the United Way to establish a task force that will look at long-term solutions for period poverty.
Period poverty is the lack of access to menstrual products and facilities to use them safely that impacts people who cannot afford them on a monthly basis.
Approximately half of the funding will go toward supporting the task force and half will go toward supplying free menstrual products for people who need them.
“Period poverty is a problem that we can only solve together. Building the Period Poverty Task Force will help us all better understand how to increase access to vital menstrual products and programming province-wide,” United Way B.C. CEO Michael McKnight said. “We are looking forward to diving deeper into the issue and building solutions by bringing experts together from across the province.”
Although the funding announcement was made on Friday (May 27), there were few details about who will be on the task force. The province said the task force will be comprised of representatives from business organizations, non-profits, people with lived experience of period poverty, Indigenous peoples and youth organizations.
The task force will build on the Period Promise research conducted by the United Way. The Period Promise final report, issued in January 2021, found that an estimated 23 per cent of people who menstruate struggle with period poverty on a regular basis and 50 per cent have struggled to access products at some point in their lives.
That research was funded by a $95,000 grant from the province in 2019. Parts of that funding also went toward providing menstrual products to 10 non-profit agencies. This was announced at the same time as a ministerial order that required all public schools in B.C. to provide free menstrual products to students — the province provided $300,000 in start-up funds for that initiative.
The report included several recommendations, including providing free menstrual products through community organizations; making products freely available in public settings like schools, universities, workplaces, government-operated washrooms, pharmacies, and other regularly accessed public spaces; and testing programs like the delivery of free or subsidized period products for people in extremely isolated communities.
Recommendations also called for work to combat stigma around menstruation, as well as the establishment of a “round-table” for identifying gaps in services and programs to address period poverty.
By March 2024, the task force will provide a final report to the province with recommendations on policy to reduce period poverty.
The United Way is currently running its annual Period Promise campaign that aims to provide 700,000 menstrual products to people in need. Outside of funding from the province, the campaign relies largely on donations from businesses and individuals.
For $500, the United Way can provide menstrual products to support 25 families for a month.