Impact Stories

Period Promise gearing up to reduce period poverty

Imagine being forced to choose between food and menstrual products. Or facing the daunting prospect of asking for pads when you’re in the midst of a gender transition. Maybe it’s the middle of exam season, stress is mounting and student loan funds are dwindling. You’re suddenly faced with choosing between necessary brain fuel and expensive – but necessary – supplies.

These are the harsh realities for many people, but you can help change things.
United Way’s Period Promise collection campaign, presented by Pacific Blue Cross, aims to reduce period poverty. Unions, businesses, and clubs in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, and right across B.C. will be running donation drives during the month of March.

You can too!

Struggling to get by

Sarah is a single mother with two children. All three of them menstruate. She has a full-time job, but her hours are irregular and her wage is low. Buying enough product for herself and her children is a monthly challenge, costing more than $450 annually.

When she can access what she needs from an organization that is part of Period Promise, she is free to participate in what matters to her: taking her kids to the library, meeting friends for coffee or walking in the park.*

The United Way Period Promise team distributes menstrual products to more than 60 partner agencies across the Lower Mainland, including Aunt Leah’s Place. Operations Manager Pam Costello says being able to give out a full box to clients, instead of just one or two, provides a sense of dignity.

“Thanks to Period Promise our participants are able to receive a full box of menstrual products instead of only taking a few with them,” Pam says.

The 2019 Period Promise campaign gathered approximately 500,000 products
United Way of the Lower Mainland is working with a variety of organizations to amplify the urgency of this issue, including presenting sponsor Pacific Blue Cross.

“Period Promise is a perfect example of how the United Way mobilizes local citizens to tackle issues in their own neighbourhoods, including period poverty,” says Rob Chiarello, Senior Vice President, People & Culture and Chief Privacy Officer, Pacific Blue Cross.

“As a Health Benefits Society with deep B.C. roots and a mission to improve health and well-being for British Columbians, Pacific Blue Cross applauds their work and is proud to be the presenting sponsor of this initiative.”

“Our voice—and the voices of other organizations that have made a Period Promise to provide free and accessible products in our workplaces—is helping to remove the physical and mental stigma around menstruation. We invite you to join us.”

A brief history of incredible impact

In 2017, United Way of the Lower Mainland piloted a “Tampon Tuesday” initiative, collecting over 30,000 menstrual products for our community agencies in the Lower Mainland.

In 2018, donations increased almost 7 times over – we collected over 220,000 individual products!

In 2019, donations increased over 16 times. We collected approximately 500,000 individual menstrual products!

In 2020, we hope to collect even more donations for those in need, in our own neighbourhoods.

“The labour movement has been a key partner in this since day one,” says Period Promise Co-Chair Nikki Hill. Even with this groundswell of support, she explains the need is growing and working collaboratively makes a big difference.

“Every year we hear more and more about the need in communities. We hear more about people dealing with these issues for years who didn’t want to speak to anyone about it. It was too embarrassing and there was so much stigma,” Nikki says.

“Every year we know that we’re really helping people have access to the services they need to be able to go to work, to be able to learn and that’s a really important part of this campaign.”

United Way’s Period Promise aims to provide menstrual products to anyone who needs it, because no one should have to choose between food and menstrual products.

Interested in running a campaign at work, your running group, or book club?

We’ve got you covered.

Get your toolkit here
*The stories presented here are real, the results of our research in community with people who experience period poverty. The United Way Period Promise Research Project is being conducted with the Government of B.C. All identifying features of the research participant have been removed to protect the identity of the individual.