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 2023 public opinion research survey conducted by Environics Research on behalf of Women and Gender Equality Canada found that:
- One in six (17%) Canadians who menstruate have personally experienced period poverty; this rises to one in four (25%) if their household earns less than $40,000 a year.
- One in five (20%) who menstruate say they may not afford period products at some point in the next 12 months, and 7% say this is very likely. Six in ten of the first group agree that inflation has increased the likelihood of not affording period products.
- One in four Canadians agree periods are dirty and unclean, and about one in five agree menstruation should not be publicly discussed (22%) and menstrual products should be kept out of sight (22%).
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: Research and 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:
- An online survey to over 200 not-for-profit organizations, led by WAGE
- Five group discussions and several bilateral discussions with community organizations (shelters, food banks, community centres, and friendship centres), attended by the Parliamentary Secretary
- Environmental scans on the menstrual equity landscape across Canada, including the existing programming and initiatives in place to address period poverty, led by the Community-Based Research Centre
- Research on the intersectional prevalence and impacts of period poverty in Canada, as well as national and international promising practices (collected through interviews with menstrual equity advocates working within the menstrual equity space), led by Douglas College
- Engagement with WAGE’s Indigenous Women’s Circle, other federal departments, and the provinces and territories
- Public opinion research:
- Phase 1: Omnibus survey on menstrual equity with a random sample of 1,000 Canadians, led by the Privy Council Office
- Phase 2: Public opinion research to better understand how the Canadian public views menstruation, free access to period products, and period poverty, led by Environics Canada
What we heard from MEF engagement activities (2022–23)
Acknowledgements & Introduction
Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) would like to thank all people who participated in the online survey, meetings, and bilateral and group discussions.
What we heard
The engagement process underscored issues under the following themes: period poverty, demand for products, access and product distribution, funding support, and education and research.
Public Opinion Research
In March 2023, Environics Research conducted an online survey with 2,083 Canadians to provide WAGE with a measure of awareness, attitudes, and behaviours regarding period poverty.
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 launched a targeted call for proposals to solicit applications from five national not-for-profit organizations. National candidates that were invited to apply demonstrated 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
Food Banks Canada, one of the country’s largest organizations to fight food insecurity, has been selected to run the MEF pilot.
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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