Tackling “period poverty” in Halifax

United Way volunteer Sandra Mullen is confronting an overlooked problem, one tampon at a time

For many women, transgender men, and non-binary people living on low incomes, the cost of menstrual products can eat up a big part of already overstretched household budgets. But it’s not something that gets a lot of attention, mostly due to the discomfort and stigma of talking about it. The consequences can be serious, however. Besides the financial impacts, some people without access to appropriate menstrual products end up staying home from work or school, or even opt for unsafe substitutes like toilet paper.

That’s why “Tampon Tuesday” was created in 2009. It helps ensure Canadians who menstruate have ready access to the hygiene products they need.

Tampon Tuesday in Halifax

In 2019, Halifax finally had its first Tampon Tuesday, thanks to the leadership and hard work of Sandra Mullen.

As 1st vice-president of the NSGEU, Sandra is also part of the National Union’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Issues. She first heard about Tampon Tuesday from a sister union in British Columbia. Immediately, she knew she wanted to bring it back east.

In her own career, she’s spent plenty of time working and volunteering with women living on a low income, struggling to make ends meet.

“I saw first-hand how it affects women and their families when they can’t afford the menstrual supplies they need,” says Sandra. “I wanted to get the word out to union members, to let them know how they could help.”

Sandra worked with United Way to promote the initiative on social media. She was able to generate a flood of donations to workplaces and Shoppers Drug Mart locations. 2019’s inaugural Tampon Tuesday was an enormous success! Generous individuals donated over 51,000 menstrual products to the cause.  It took Sandra and the NSGEU’s women’s committee an afternoon to count and sort the donations.

We kicked off our second annual Tampon Tuesday this year at NSGEU’s Women’s Day breakfast. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we had to press pause for 2020. Stay tuned for Tampon Tuesday efforts in 2021.