Menstrual Equity Fund Pilot
Menstrual equity refers to equal and comprehensive access to menstrual products, as well as access to education regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights. Period poverty is a lack of access to menstrual products, education, hygiene facilities, waste management, or a combination of these.
Many people face barriers to accessing menstrual products or educational materials because of financial limitations and/or harmful social norms and attitudes surrounding menstruation.
Lack of access to menstrual products is closely linked to poverty and disproportionately impacts youth, single mothers, Indigenous peoples, Black and other racialized communities, immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, people living with disabilities, gender diverse individuals, and those who live in remote areas.
A 2022 Plan International Canada study found that:
- Two in three (66%) of those who identify as girls and women have heard having a period or PMS being used as an insult
- More than four in five respondents who menstruate (83%) believe period products are too expensive
- One in five (22%) ration or use products longer than they should because they can’t afford more; this rises to 33% among those with a household income of under $50,000, and 48% for Indigenous respondents
Addressing barriers related to affordability and stigma
Budget 2022 committed to establishing a national pilot for the Menstrual Equity Fund (MEF) to address the barriers related to affordability and stigma that some Canadians face when accessing menstrual products.
Phase 1: Engagement
Throughout 2022–23, Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) undertook research and engagement activities to better understand the menstrual equity landscape in Canada. This included:
- Bilateral and group discussions with WAGE’s Indigenous Women’s Circle, not-for-profit organizations, the private sector, and provinces and territories
- Consultations with federal partners, including Indigenous Services Canada, the Labour Program at Employment and Social Development Canada, Global Affairs Canada, and Health Canada
- A survey of over 200 diverse not-for-profit organizations, including shelters, food banks, community organizations, and organizations serving the North, to learn more about existing menstrual equity supports and what is still needed across Canada
Phase 2: The pilot – A national approach
Information gathered through engagement activities informed the design of the MEF pilot, which centres on selecting one established national non-profit organization to:
- Test approaches to distribute free menstrual products to community organizations serving diverse low-income populations in various locations across Canada
- Partner with a small number of grassroots organizations across Canada that are already advancing menstrual equity to scale up education and awareness activities to inform Canadians about period poverty and reduce stigma around menstruation
Phase 3: Targeted call for proposals
WAGE will launch a targeted call for proposals to solicit applications from five national not-for-profit organizations. One national not-for-profit organization will be selected to lead the MEF pilot.
National candidates that have been invited to apply must demonstrate qualities that will support a successful MEF pilot, including:
- A broad reach and distribution network
- The capacity and expertise to deliver an innovative pan-Canadian project in both official languages
- The demonstrated capacity to manage the procurement and distribution of products in diverse locations
- Existing partnerships with diverse community organizations and the private sector
If you have not been contacted to apply but believe that your organization meets all the criteria, please contact us by June 5, 2023 at FEGC.Rsap-Cfpe.WAGE@fegc-wage.gc.ca.
The MEF pilot builds on ongoing work at the federal level to advance menstrual equity, including:
- An initiative led by Indigenous Services Canada to provide free menstrual products in First Nations schools on reserves and in federal schools across Canada
- An Employment and Social Development Canada–led project to ensure the provision of free menstrual products in federally regulated workplaces
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