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1 in 4 Canadian women forced to choose between buying meals and period products, survey finds

A new survey has found that one in four menstruating women in Canada have had to choose between paying for period products or other essentials such as food or rent.

The study, conducted by Plan International Canada, collected data from 1,000 women over the age of 18 in Canada, and the results shed light on access barriers in Canada, the prevalence of stigma surrounding periods, and the negative impacts as a result.

Of the women surveyed, 82 per cent said they believe that period products, such as tampons and sanitary pads, are too expensive. This figure was higher among younger women, as 88 per cent of those between ages 18 to 24 said the same thing


Aside from the cost, the survey also revealed that women feel that a stigma around periods remains, at times making it difficult to discuss menstruation in the workplace.

In fact, 20 per cent of women reported feeling judged or as though they were treated unfairly at work or in their relationships due to their period.

This stigma can be particularly detrimental to young women. Of the respondents, 78 per cent women between 18 to 24 said they’ve had to hide their period while at school or at work, and 51 per cent have even felt they have to hide it in their homes.

Many women also face monthly premenstrual syndrome (PMS) as a result of their menstrual cycle, which looks different for everyone and can include mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Despite the fact that three of every four women experiencing some kind of PMS, the survey found that 54 per cent of young women felt embarrassed bringing up their PMS experiences.

"Period poverty should never limit a person's potential," said Saadya Hamdani, director of gender equality and inclusion at Plan International Canada, in a press release. "By breaking down the stigma and providing access to menstrual products and education, we can create a world where everyone can fully participate in all aspects of life."

Earlier this month, the Canadian government announced that federally regulated workplaces in Canada will start offering free period products to workers as of mid-December this year, after a $25 million budget was established to address period poverty by making menstrual products more accessible.

There have also been moves made globally towards addressing period poverty, such as in Scotland, which passed a bill in 2020 to make tampons and sanctuary pads free in public spaces such as community centres and pharmacies. Other countries that taken similar steps include New Zealand, Kenya and Botswana.


In partnership with Leger, Plan International Canada conducted an online survey of 1,000 women aged 18 years and over in April 2023. Of the respondents, 667 were not yet menopausal at the time of the survey. No margin of error can be associated with a non-probablity sample, however, for comparative purposes a probability sample of 1,000 respondents would have a margin of error of ±3.1% 19 times out of 20. Top Stories

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