"When times are tough, we can defer credit card, car loan, mortgage, line of credit, and utility bill payments. What we cannot defer is our period."
For joni, our period equity partner Let it Flow is a hometown hero located in Victoria, BC. Launched in 2021, LIF has already made a big impact within the community to not only raise awareness about period poverty but to fight it as well through an annual donation drive.
"Periods are the one expense you cannot defer," says founder Dominque Koffel who has worked closely with her project partner Sharlet Koniczek to set up donation stations across the city. Even 100.3 The Q! The Island's Rock got involved to "spread the word, take the pledge, and join the conversation to end period poverty."
We sat down with Dominque to learn about the backstory of Let it Flow and it's the perfect story of the impact one person can make.
What is Let it Flow's mission, and how did you get started?
The Let It Flow (LIF) mission is to give the gift of necessity—because no one should miss out on anything in their lives because they have their period.
I launched this project coming from a place of ignorance.
I was driving home from work one day—listening to CBC—and they were speaking on the topic of period poverty and how Scotland had just become the first country to make period products free and accessible to anyone and everyone. It was a moment where my heart sunk and sang all at once.
My heart sunk….
I felt smacked with privilege and embarrassment. How (being a person who has menstruated for 30+ years) did it not occur to me that not everyone has access to period products? Something I take for granted each month.
I instantly thought of the non-binary, intersex, and trans communities. Someone who doesn't identify as female—but has their biological alarm clock remind them otherwise monthly. Add not having access to products, and that equals an enormous monthly stressor.
I thought of all the life events missed. Each month, people are faced with putting food on the table or buying period products. People forgo job interviews, school graduation, dates, hangouts—just life!
I thought of the health risks involved in improvised products that can cause infection with long-term ramifications.
My heart sang…
Scotland's initiative ignited something in me. I thought to myself, "I can do something to raise awareness!"
I then proceeded to do...nothing about it for a year. The world took a nosedive and it slipped off my radar. Fast forward to summer 2021, and I am chatting to a great friend of mine, Sharlet Koniczek; I shared my aspirations to do something—anything—about period poverty. She was instantly on board and we set the wheels in motion.
What do you do to bring your mission to life?
So much embarrassment over here!
Invigorated by the idea to do a period product drive, I bounced my idea off friends and family and found it easy to chat about. However, I quickly realized that cold calling/emailing people and organizations to ask to collaborate, help spread the word, host drop-off events, collect donations, and so forth was another thing!
I wanted to get two donation recipients and two drop-off event locations solidified right away. Easy right? Well, I was shocked at how flustered and embarrassed I was at relaying my vision, but I was also shocked that people were instantly on board and passionate about being involved. Swiftly my embarrassment shifted to confidence. With every vote of support, donation, personal story, and community connection came the solidification that LIF could make an impact.
I will say that these first people that had to endure my fumbling speel really brought LIF and its mission to life for me:
· Sharlet Koniczek – great family friend and my LIF partner!
· Matthew Wild from Portland Housing Society (PHS)
· Diana Gallican from Our Place Society
· Ed Nelms from Thrifty Foods Colwood
· Sarah Reynolds from Uptown
· Julia Martorana from Back to Back Chiropractic
· Lauen Kelly from The Zone/ 100.3 The Q
· OH and one more – Linda Biggs from joni!
In your first year, how many period products were you able to provide toward achieving period equity in your community? What has the response been like?
I didn’t set out to bring in X amount of products from X amount of people. I truly had no idea how this drive would unfold. My background is event management, so I feel like those roots took hold, and I went from thinking small to much bigger in a very short period. Again, the uptake and instant community involvement propelled my ambition.
Between Sharlet and me, we had donations dropped off on our doorsteps almost daily leading up to the two LIF donation events, and that really hit home that this was going to be bigger than we expected. We even had gift cards flowing in from Australia, New Zealand, the Cayman Islands, and the USA!
Our final tally was about 1,100 products that we evenly disbursed between PHS and Our Place Society—nearly 100 products went to the Goldstream Foodbank, as well. Both of our houses were swimming with period products—my daughter even built extensive castles out of them! The products became a conversation starter in my home, and I actually loved that aspect of LIF. Why do we whisper about our periods? Let’s talk!
What does period equity mean to you?
If you had asked me before the LIF Period Product Drive, I would have given you a textbook answer; it means a world where period products are accessible and affordable to anyone and everyone.
Since doing the drive, I think it’s a more extensive conversation about PERIOD stigma! It’s about anything in the downtown region of the human body. We blush, we wave things off, we whisper about what’s going on. WHY? How can we expect to really tackle massive issues in our society when we can barely say the words needed to have an honest conversation?
Period equity is dignity. Period equity is periods getting as much airtime in conversations as someone’s knee injury, bad back, toothaches, etc. Period equity is normalizing the flow and celebrating it!
What do you think is the biggest barrier to Canada reaching period equity?
Periods are a basic function of human existence. Fun fact: most of us emerged from a vagina—so after physically exiting one to arrive here, why is it still taboo to discuss it in a public forum for change? Periods and our “privates” are shrouded in secrecy, which has done nothing for humans who menstruate.
From a granular standpoint, I see the need for more mainstream discussion.
I see the need for daily chats in schools about periods.
I see the need for periods to get a place at the dining room table with families.
Let’s talk about it so much that it becomes a light conversation with friends and family of all genders and identities.
I think we need to let go of the antiquated societal confines—the mother figure ushering us off to quietly learn how to manage this biological happening that will occur for 30+ years of our lives.
Ignorance, lack of resources, and stigma are the biggest barriers, in my opinion. I find this is a grassroots movement for change, and it shouldn’t be. Menstruation is all-encompassing and needs its own set of policies and legislation. Sounds extreme—but hey, I know that my period can take me out for a full day and then add in that I don’t have access to period products?
What accomplishment is Let it Flow most proud of?
Community. I would say the most remarkable accomplishment—which has been entirely out of our hands—is seeing the drive flourish and flow. The connections and the way the drive drew so many different walks of life to come forward, share their own stories, and get involved.
Through the power of social media, we connected with a local shop owner who saw one of our posts and knew she wanted to donate the joni period care she had in store, which is how we connected with joni. She told me of a rural community she once resided where teens resorted to pregnancy to forgo their periods and the monthly embarrassment of having to figure out improvised products. That really stuck with me—pregnancy to stop our periods for such a short window of time and then the outcome of caring for another human. It broke my heart and made this drive feel even more important.
I had people contact me that I have known for years tell me that they lived in poverty for most of their adolescent lives, and each month, their period was dreaded because they didn’t have access to products. These incredibly personal sharings take courage to recount and strike a chord from within. We felt honoured to listen and learn.
So I guess the accomplishment we are most proud of realizes that behind each donation is a story—and that story has shaped the lives of so many. We are proud to join a pretty amazing crew of people in this community that is hardwired to make a difference.
How essential to Let it Flow are partnerships with social enterprises like joni?
Geez, we just feel so lucky that we were connected to joni and received not only an incredible donation but learned so much about period equity and the incredible work being done. We are very much at the tip of the iceberg doing this drive yearly and hope to continue growing to make a lasting impact.
I also think that building these partnerships is essential to truly connect to our community and sync our visions to make a change collectively. This is an opportunity to draw awareness and learn from one another. The more people involved, the louder the conversation!
What can people do in their own communities to fight for period equity?
Talk and talk some more!
Draw awareness—pop the topic of period equity into conversations and see what questions bubble up. When we first started this drive, I asked a friend to help me spread the word and mentioned period equity/poverty, and she said, “what’s that?” I actually appreciated her answer—it ignited a chat and an eye-opening moment.
I think my ignorance at the beginning of this journey is a testament to the fight for period equity, out of sight and out of mind. We need to talk, educate, normalize and repeat.
We're proud of our relationship with our period equity partner Let it flow. Do you want to contribute to Let it Flow Period Product Drive? Follow them Instagram at @letitflowppd or on Facebook and watch for their annual collection drive toward the end of the year.