Impact Stories

Period Poverty Research Released

United Way is proud to release the Period Promise Research Project Final Report today. Funded by the Government of BC, this research is providing United Way and the Government with a profile of period poverty in BC. It outlines the impact of not having access to menstrual products and the benefits of being able to find free products in community organizations. The results confirm that increasing access to free menstrual products is one way we can build healthier, caring, and more inclusive communities. 

This report is an important milestone in building community-focused solutions to the issue of period poverty. As Michael McKnight, President and CEO of United Way of the Lower Mainland says, “the report makes it clear that period poverty is a widespread issue in our province. We hope this report strengthens everybody’s understanding of the issue, and raises awareness of the role that accessible community-based non-profits are playing as part of the solution.” 

More than 1600 people responded to a public survey where they shared how period poverty impacts their life and access to the community. Hundreds provided testimonies that speak to the importance of increasing access to free menstrual products at community organizations. For instance, one respondent said: 

“I remember being given a higher quality pad when I first visited a woman shelter. I had been struggling in an abusive relationship and struggling to take care of myself, and when they offered me a high-quality branded product it felt like a luxury. I had been using anything I could find up until that point. [Having access to this product] was part of my recovery.” 

Key Findings

Period poverty is widespread
The final report highlights how common the lack of access to menstrual products in British Columbia is, and helps identify some of the serious negative effects on people’s daily activities and participation in their community. A few quick findings are highlighted below. Unfortunately, the impacts of period poverty are magnified for Indigenous people and people living with disabilities. To see those details, check out the report

• Approximately 51% of respondents to our public survey indicated that they had struggled to purchase product for themselves.
• 26% of respondents indicated they had gone through a period without having menstrual products available to them.
• Not having access to menstrual products is an isolating factor: 18% of respondents indicated that they missed school, 22% work, 29% community events, and 27% social events when they didn’t have access. 

Having access to menstrual products is hugely beneficial 

Through the year-long project, United Way provided free tampons and pads to 12 community organizations from around the province to give out. More than 300,000 menstrual products were distributed, and the results made it clear that community organizations are essential to building solutions to period poverty in our province. 

 The results showed that having access to menstrual products at community organizations makes it easier for people to stay connected to their community when menstruating. Nearly 75% of respondents indicated that having access to products at community organizations allows them to be engaged in their community, and more than 70% indicated it improved their relationship with that organization.  

As one community member said, “with menstrual products I can be free to go out and be part of society. I can go for a walk, go grocery shopping do all the basic things that others take for granted outdoors. I can feel like a human being that matters. I can be happy and positive and productive. Thank you.” 

The work continues

The findings and recommendations in the report will help the Government of British Columbia and United Way find solutions that make menstrual products more accessible. 

In the meantime, we know that more than 95% of community organizations are asked for free menstrual products on a regular basis, and more than 80% of those that give them out are dependent on donations. Helping provide free menstrual products is one way that United Way builds vital connections in our community. Interested in joining the effort? Donate now or sign up to be a part of our collection campaign. 

How this research project started

United Way launched this project in July 2019 in partnership with BC’s Ministry of Social Development of Poverty Reduction. More than three hundred thousand (300,000) free menstrual products were distributed to 12 community-based non-profit agencies around the province. When possible, clients were asked for feedback on their experience with period poverty and the agencies reported the results. Research was also conducted through a public online survey. 

 Additional support for the project was provided by Pacific Blue Cross, Vancity, and Always and Tampax. With their support we were able to expand the project impact from 8 community organizations around the province to 12. Their involvement expanded the profile, impact, and data quality of the project. 

Learn more and get involved

The Final Report on the United Way Period Promise Research Project is available here:

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Learn more about Together BC, the Province’s poverty reduction strategy: