Edmonton Journal: Tampon donation drive highlights damage of menstrual taboo

The woman was begging for money, same as every day. But this time, as Scarlet Bjornson reached to find some change, she asked the woman why.

The answer was both mundane and shocking: she wanted alcohol but needed tampons.

“I had never, ever thought of that,” said Bjornson, at that time a real estate agent living in Mill Woods. Bjornson went to her car, gave the woman her emergency stash of menstrual products, and that evening started planing a donation drive.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the people I talk to, they haven’t thought of it either,” she said as she prepared to launch the second annual drive this month. It’s a deeply personal need, tied up with such emotion. But response has been strong and No Women Without now has more than one dozen donation locations across the city. They’re collecting pads, tampons and menstrual cups throughout February to restock shelves at Bissell Centre, Win House and other crisis organizations.

Perhaps this is a strange thing to read about in a local newspaper, but No Women Without is the second Edmonton non-profit formed recently specifically to collect menstrual products. It’s part of growing awareness of the need and global discussion on breaking the stigma around menstruation.

Women, girls and trans people who don’t have a supply risk infection when they use a product too long or resort to tightly-rolled wads of toilet paper, Kleenex or hand towels. Low-income girls who can’t access enough products are likely to miss school. Any woman surprised by an unpredictable period in public faces a desperate scramble.

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