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Apr 24, 2024

3 min. read

The Red Dot Project Ensures "Menstrual Equity" For All Image by David Pike. Text by Kate Rae.

When he was growing up, all Phillip Jang really knew about menstruation was that his mom wouldn’t go swimming a few days a month. As an adult, he thought he understood more, but it wasn’t until seven years ago when he realized the enormous impact a period can have and the stress that it can bring.

Jang, a professor in the social service worker program at Seneca Polytechnic, heard from a student doing a placement at a youth shelter that one of her clients was trying to get pads, but only tampons were being offered. “She was told that only what gets donated can be provided,” recalls Jang. “That blew my mind because this was a well-funded agency, yet they didn’t have a line item in their budget for menstrual supplies, which is a basic human need.” He started looking around at what others were doing in the world of what was then called “period poverty.” The term has since expanded to “menstrual equity” to acknowledge that the issues involving menstruation go well beyond the ability to access supplies—although that is the first step. “Having a supply is a huge thing, of course, but it’s also about making sure that people understand all of what menstruation is—the pain as well as the mental health and health-care aspects.”

Along with his team of volunteers—many of them former and current students—Jang assembles about 100 kits every month that get distributed to those experiencing homelessness through various community agencies in Toronto, as well as locations such as the Moss Park Safe Consumption Site. Jang and his team have also carefully listened to feedback, and the result is a kit assembled in a reusable bag with thoughtful details. Offering recipients the choice of tampons or pads is key, as is having a range of absorbencies to ensure that the users have what they need to get them through the month. “Our pads, tampons and liners are all in Ziploc bags, so they are water-protected,” says Jang. “For someone who lives on the street, everything gets soaked really quickly. Having it sealed makes a big difference.”

In addition to the kits, Jang is proud of the Red Dot Project’s advocacy work convincing Seneca to make free menstrual supplies available at restrooms across all of its campuses. It’s something he hopes will encourage other institutions to follow suit. “I think that’s a really big push for people doing this work—the idea that all businesses should offer it like toilet paper.”

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