Chloé Pronovost-Morgan, a medical student at Montreal's McGill University, thinks the government should do more to tackle period poverty in Canada — so, for now, she's doing it herself by giving free period products to those in need.
Why was Monthly Dignity founded?
Pronovost-Morgan told MTL Blog she and her co-founder wanted to volunteer for a similar organization — before realizing none actually existed in Montreal.
Digging deeper into whether there was a need for menstrual products in the city, they found there was an immense lack of pads and tampons at homeless shelters — and staff told them a supply of menstrual products would be crucial.
"When people think homelessness, they think men [first], and then they think clothes, they think food, but never does it come to people's minds that pads and tampons are also an essential need," Pronovost-Morgan said.
Monthly Dignity has teamed up with local food bank Moisson Montreal and Quebec menstrual product manufacturer Fempro, in addition to other partners, to store and distribute period products to people who need them.
"[Fempro sometimes] changes their packaging, for marketing purposes. And they used to throw out the products with the old packaging," she said.
"We came in and said, 'There's a need, and there are people who can't afford these products. Can you donate them to us?' And they agreed, which was incredible."
What has Monthly Dignity done so far?
Pronovost-Morgan said, since its inception, Monthly Dignity has delivered close to 160,000 period products to 16 local shelters and raised almost $20,000 in funding.
Monthly Dignity's latest initiative does something that governments are doing in other countries around the world — it provides free menstrual products to students.
In collaboration with John F. Kennedy High School in Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension, Monthly Dignity has donated 15,000 pads and tampons to students in need.
Pronovost-Morgan said the school's community leader, Rocco Speranza, reached out to Monthly Dignity for help after noticing that some students would not show up for five days in a row each month due to a lack of period products.
"We [...] realized this was an actual problem. Period poverty was leading to school absenteeism and was presenting a barrier to education," Pronovost-Morgan said.
"It's something we heard about in India, for example, but the fact that it was happening here in Montreal was shocking."
As for future plans, Pronovost-Morgan told MTL Blog there is more work to be done on a wider scale.
The organization has submitted a petition to the House of Commons and is currently waiting for it to be accepted.
"Our clear limitation here is that we're a group of students, and we do this on a volunteer basis," she said.
"That's why we're at the point where we really hope the government can step in."
How can we solve period poverty in Quebec?
Pronovost-Morgan said Monthly Dignity's mission was initially to distribute menstrual hygiene products to homeless Montrealers.
But over the years, she said, the team realized that period poverty is a much wider problem.
"Period poverty affects homeless individuals, it affects people living in precarious situations under the poverty line, single mothers, immigrants, students, [and] the list continues," Pronovost-Morgan said.
"Governmental action will be necessary to tackle this problem because our solutions are palliative — they're kind of like a Band-Aid."
Pronovost-Morgan pointed to government action in Scotland, which became the first country in the world to make period products entirely free in November 2020.
Similar legislation exists in New Zealand, where period products will be distributed for free to primary, intermediate and secondary students as of June 2021.
In Canada, British Columbia recently became the first province to require its schools to offer free tampons and pads to students.
"Universal access to period products is what we need," Pronovost-Morgan said.
"The right to menstrual hygiene is a fundamental human right."
You can donate to Monthly Dignity by visiting its website.