Navy bases ready to wage war on period poverty
By Peter Mallet,
The Period Poverty Challenge is on, encouraging friendly competition between the Royal Canadian Navy’s two main bases in Halifax and Esquimalt.
The gauntlet will determine which base can raise the most donations of menstrual hygiene products during the month of May. The civilian co-chairs of the Defence Women’s Advisory Organizations (DWAO) of Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) and Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT) issued the challenge last week during a Microsoft Teams meeting. Donation boxes for menstrual hygiene products including pads, tampons and panty liners, menstrual cups and period underwear, will be set up at strategic locations in Esquimalt and Halifax to support the United Way’s Period Promise Campaign. The contest begins May 1 and concludes on May 28, coinciding with World Menstrual Hygiene Day.
“There is definitely some trash talking going on by both sides but there is no hiding from the truth as the ‘Best Coast’ is about to defeat the beast of the East,” said Vanessa Nicholson, event organizer for the Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) DWAO.
Holly Scothorn, Civilian Co-Chair for Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARPAC), begged to differ. “No question, Halifax is going to win because Atlantic Canada is known to be super generous and much better at making charitable donations than the West,” she countered.
As part of the challenge, the losing DWAO will be forced to toss their group’s military Champion into the cold waters of Halifax or Esquimalt Harbour. In Halifax, Captain (Navy) Jonathan Lafontaine has been put on notice that he may take the plunge into the not-so pristine waters of Halifax Harbour, while in Esquimalt, Captain (Navy) Peter Sproule is counting on the donations to avoid the chilly waters of the Pacific.
All good-natured trash talking aside, period poverty is a very serious issue, Scothorn and Nicholson agree.
“Menstrual products are essential and period poverty is real and acts as a barrier to many things for many people such as attending work or school,” Scothorn said. “Our combined efforts with this contest are to shed more light on a very serious health problem with far-reaching effects,” added Nicholson.
The numbers don’t lie, Nicholson said, pointing to a recent study by the United Way of the Lower Mainland of B.C. Its Period Promise Report found that 51 percent of 1,600 people surveyed struggled to purchase a menstrual hygiene product for themselves, while 26 percent indicated they went through a period without having menstrual products available. A recent poverty study in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) revealed approximately 20,000 women are experiencing poverty and also face the same difficulties in purchasing menstrual hygiene products. “People miss school or leave work, and too many face the additional challenges of homelessness, living with a disability because of Period Poverty,” she said. “It isn’t easy to ask for help or know where to find it.”
Scothorn has run a Period Poverty campaign at CFB Halifax for the past four years. She collected over 13,000 menstrual hygiene products during her first year of operation but noted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and members working remotely reduced contributions from the previous years.
Nicholson established her campaign in Esquimalt in 2021 and managed to collect 11,307 products when her first campaign wrapped up in May 2022. She is confident those numbers will increase this time around.
“Once we educate people about the seriousness of the issue, they need little convincing to get on board and help spread the word about the dire need,” Nicholson said.