Ensuring no young person misses out on their education because they have their period.
What began in 2017 as a grassroots response to local period poverty in Portsmouth, England, The Red Box Project has spread to include chapters around the world, such as Niagara, Ontario. As a result of their efforts and many other partners and organizations, The Red Box has been able to pull back on their operations in England, Scotland, and Wales as governments roll out free period products there. In contrast, as Hannah Legault explains from Niagara's Red Box Project, in addition to distributing period products, much of their work is around period equity awareness. Many Canadians are simply not aware yet that period poverty is a very real issue here in Canada. We're very grateful to work with the Red Box Project in Niagara for distributing our joni sustainable pads and for sharing connections and spreading awareness, together.
What is the Red Box Project’s mission and how did you get started?
Our mission is to provide accessible period products to all young people who menstruate. We believe that no young person should miss school because of their period.
What do you do to bring your mission to life?
We provide an unlimited amount of assorted period products to students across all four school boards in the Niagara Region. In addition to this short-term solution, we advocate for board-wide funding for menstrual equity, and motion for Niagara boards to approve Menstrual Equity Budgets in each of their schools.
To date, how many period products have you been able to provide toward achieving period equity in your community?
Since the end of 2018, we have consistently supplied period products to a total of 38 schools across Niagara. An approximate total of 385 packs of pads, 400 boxes of tampons, 300 packs of liners, and $400 worth of emergency underwear have been distributed to schools within Niagara. We re-stock items with local teachers on a monthly basis, or as needed.
What does period equity mean to you?
Period equity means every person who menstruates has a period without the worry of financial burden or social stigma/embarrassment. Periods should not only be affordable but accepted and understood as the basic bodily function they are.
What do you think is the biggest barrier to Canada reaching period equity?
The rising cost of living (housing, food costs, transportation) has been a significant barrier to accessing period products. So many families in Niagara (and across the country) are falling into the category of ‘working poor’. Adults are employed but are still living paycheque to paycheque. This means that individuals are finding themselves having to choose between $10 for period care or $10 worth of extra groceries for the home.
What accomplishment is the Red Box Project most proud of in Canada?
A very big accomplishment for us at the Red Box Project Niagara has been creating awareness surrounding period poverty within local businesses. Pre-COVID, we partnered with businesses in Niagara to collect period products and funding for our initiative. Most business owners (and politicians!) have not been aware that period items are nearly unattainable for so many families in our own neighbourhoods. Adding this sense of humility and humanity to a real problem has been a real accomplishment.
One example of this is a student in Niagara Falls expressing their gratitude for not only one or two emergency products during school, but the ability to have a change of underwear at school, a new product, and then to take a whole pack home. This is really the full-circle support toward which we strive.
How important to the Red Box Project are partnerships with social enterprises like joni?
These partnerships are incredibly important, and this goes beyond supplying products and material benefits. The connections to other period enterprises are a way to share knowledge and awareness surrounding period poverty on a much larger scale. They allow us to use a broader lens to examine the problem, talk through the multiple systemic barriers, brainstorm solutions, and network with others who bring their personal experience to the conversation. These are the connections that will evoke long-term change in how we view menstruation.