Period Purse makes menstrual products accessible for marginalized women

East York student behind local drive to collect pads and tampons for homeless and impoverished women

A children’s store is probably not the first place you’d associate with menstrual products.

But that’s where you’ll find a drop-off point for donations to The Period Purse, a grassroots organization dedicated to delivering menstrual products and toiletries in fashionable purses to menstruators across Canada.

The store, Silly Goose Kids, is located at 2054 Danforth Ave. One of its employees, East Yorker Tait Gamble, 17, is behind the drive for donations.

Gamble, who is in Grade 12, became interested in menstrual equity when researching how to advocate for pads and tampons in the washroom at her all-girls high school, St. Clement’s School.  She was scrolling through her Facebook newsfeed when she discovered an initiative called The Period Purse. After reading a CBC article about it, she decided to get involved by starting a drive at her school.

Tait Gamble, 17, of East York is a volunteer and a co-ordinator for The Period Purse. (DANIELLE CLARKE/ TORONTO OBSERVER)

“We set up bins in the foyer and did school announcements to get the word out,” she said.

Gamble is now a volunteer and co-ordinator for The Period Purse. She has set up three drives for the initiative since its launch in February 2017

“It was an issue that the students hadn’t considered before, not having tampons and pads when you need them, so it was a good time to check our privilege,” she said.

The reaction from the students and administration has been enthusiastic and consistent. Gamble’s school has collected an impressive 6,000 tampons and just under 6,000 pads in just over a year.

“If you say you need product, most people will bring it. People just need the opportunity to give,” she said.

The motive behind Gamble’s passion is relatable for many.

“I menstruate. If I didn’t have access to these products, I know how uncomfortable I would feel,” she said.

According to a Chatelaine study, a Canadian woman spends an average of $65.82 per year on menstrual products. For those who are homeless or impoverished, the cost of pads and tampons can be further marginalizing.

Jana Girdauskas, founder and director of The Period Purse, got the idea for the organization while driving around Toronto for work. She would regularly see homeless women on the street and wanted to get involved.

“I was thinking of something tangible in my car that I could give. I thought about a care package that I could put into a purse,” Girdauskas said.

She asked her friends on Facebook if they could donate any of their purses and got a great response.

Each Period Purse includes two to three months’ worth of menstrual supplies, a toothbrush, deodorant, lotion, other toiletries, chocolate and an inspirational card.

“In the winter time, people donate warm stuff, like hats or mittens. Underwear is always a great thing to put in there,” Girdauskas said.

Period Purse, which has has collected over 25,000 menstrual products in Ontario since its launch, works with 12 shelters to ensure that residents get a menstrual pack every month.

Girdauskas is devoted to reaching as many marginalized people as she can.

“We’re at 530 people every month in the city that we serve, including the LGBTQ community,” she said.

The Period Purse holds a blitz in the spring and fall, collecting items at designated drop-off locations. The spring blitz has just wrapped up, but those wanting to get involved outside of the stockpiling period are encouraged to do so within their communities.

“People can do mini-drives throughout the year. They can collect menstrual products, toiletries, other items with their friends, colleagues, book clubs, women’s groups, and donate that way, ” said Girdauskas, who is planning to educate the population she serves on the more cost-efficient menstrual cups.

Meanwhile, Silly Goose Kids has seen a great response from the East York community.

“The store has customers that see they are collecting items and will bring in what they have,” said Girdauskas, who is also focusing on getting period purses to Indigenous communities in northern Ontario.

“Many teenage girls do not attend school on their period, because it’s very expensive and it’s not accessible,” she said. “It’s $40 to $60, compared to our $20.”