Northern medical students launch campaign to provide sanitary pads to remote communities
Two students from NOSM University (Northern Ontario School of Medicine) started a fundraising campaign to help buy menstrual products for women in a remote northern First Nations community.
Ashley Perreault and Lucie Ménard are the organizers of the campaign, which is now in its second year. Perreault is a medical student at the NOSM campus in Thunder Bay and Ménard is a medical student at NOSM in Sudbury. They have set themselves the goal of raising at least $10,000 through the GoFundMe platform.
In their roles at NOSM, both students are local advocates for reproductive and sexual health issues both in the school and in the communities served by NOSM, Perreault said. She said she and Ménard were both passionate about the issue of “period poverty” and believed the campaign was a worthwhile way to give back to the community.
“So Kingfisher Lake First Nation, for example, is a community that NOSM students can go to for a first-year placement. So we chose that’s how we ended up with the community, and then we merged our passions to help, addressing these health inequities in an area that we know well and are passionate about, to somehow so combine them and come up with this idea for medical product campaigns,” says Perreault.
Part of the concern in remote communities is that there is a supply problem and menstrual products are not always on store shelves. The other problem is that the price of sanitary napkins is simply too prohibitive. Ménard said that in some communities the price has been three times higher than what it is in a large urban community.
Perreault said there is also the embarrassment that can arise for young women at school or in the community if they cannot afford sanitary pads and are suddenly caught in the middle of their period. . She said this can force young women out of school or stuck at home, which is just another of the many challenges women face in rural communities.
In the first year of the campaign, students donated sanitary napkins to the remote community of Fort Severn. The students declared the campaign a success and this year it was decided to step things up by selecting Kingfisher Lake.
NOSM was also the first medical school in Canada to make social responsibility one of its core values for its daily operations. Ménard said NOSM looks at the health needs and concerns of almost every community in Northern Ontario. She said part of NOSM’s role in the North is to gauge the health care needs in those communities and find ways to give back to the communities.
She added that the campaign is not just something they decided on their own. Kingfisher Lake is one of several FN communities that already have a health care partnership with NOSM, she said. Also, the decision to provide reusable sanitary pads was made by the community, not the medical students. Other products and ideas were discussed, she said, but the community made the decision.
“But ultimately it was the choice of the community and we want to be respectful and aware of that, whether or not we think there are other products out there that would be more beneficial or more sustainable; that’s what they thought they needed, so that’s how we invented reusable sanitary napkins,” added Perreault.
The fundraising campaign will allow organizers to purchase reusable sanitary napkins from businesses in Alberta and Ontario. Perreault said the companies involved agreed to supply the pads at a discount. The companies will donate the time needed to make the pads and the campaign will only have to pay for the materials involved.
The fundraising campaign page says this includes the following businesses:
-The Lady Crimson Cloth Emporium,
– Cozy clams,
-Soft Taco Reusable,
-Friend Pads and
-While she’s taking a nap Creations.