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Nova Scotia’s Period Poverty Summit highlights ongoing accessibility issues

WATCH: A day-long conference in Burnside brought together high school students and politicians to discuss the daily struggles many people face when it comes to accessing menstrual products. Alexa MacLean has more.

A one-day conference that brought together students, politicians, healthcare professionals and menstruation allies to discuss the daily realities that exist around periods was held in Dartmouth, N.S. on Tuesday.

Topics discussed at the Period Poverty Summit at the conference ranged from healthcare to financial and other socioeconomic issues.

“Until we start talking about the underlying reasons that people don’t have access to these products, until we start talking about housing and income assistance rates and minimum wage, it isn’t going to change. We need to talk about those big issues,” said Shannon Hardy, a sexual and reproductive wellness coach who was part of a panel discussion.

READ MORE: N.S. teachers concerned new menstrual product announcement doesn’t include clear funding picture

In recent years, advocates in Nova Scotia have sparked awareness around the financial barriers many people face when it comes to accessing monthly menstrual products.

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‘Period poverty’ has become a commonly used phrase to describe the challenges experienced by households across the province and has been a key part of a conversation that has propelled discussions around menstruation health and equity, forward.

N.S. public schools to offer free menstrual products
N.S. public schools to offer free menstrual products

In Nova Scotia, work is ongoing to bring increased access to free menstrual products in public schools, bathrooms and beyond.

While healthcare professionals say that’s an important part of the conversation, there are larger discussions that need to be had around the root issues of why people struggle to access menstruation health services.

“I really want people to understand that there is so much more to period poverty and menstrual equity than just the financial side and the access to products,” Hardy said.

“Poverty plays a role, access to housing, access to knowledge about how our bodies work.”

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The summit also gave high school students an opportunity to break down barriers when it comes to conversations around menstruation.

READ MORE: Halifax libraries join nationwide movement towards free menstrual products

“I have a lot of friends who are female and my mom and my sister and I think it’s just really important to know what they go through. I can’t imagine what it feels like to be on my period, or menstruating, or anything. So, this is my way of learning about it, and kind of showing I respect what you’re going through,” Jacob McKiel said, a high school student from the Cobequid Educational Centre [CEC].

One CEC student started a “Period Chapter” at her school as a way to decrease stigma and stimulate healthy discussions.

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“I think that non-menstruators also need to be educated on what periods are, especially, at young ages and elementary school,” Aakanksha Khandwaha said.

“I think it’s just not okay that only half the population knows about menstruation when it’s literally what gives all of us life.”

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McKiel said the summit helped him feel like he could be more of an ally for supporting the people in his life who do menstruate.

“One day you might have a daughter, or a kid that has to go through this and you should know what to do and you should know how to help them and comfort them,” he said.