“These findings are not surprising, but they are shocking,” says medical sciences and research student Mary Lukindo.
In the summer of 2021 Lukindo worked alongside IWK Health researchers Dr. Meghan Pike and Dr. Victoria Price to compile data that better reflected the Canadian lived experience of menstrual poverty, that of not being able to afford menstrual products due to income insecurity.
Menstrual poverty has been a hot topic for social funding and government programs recently as more awareness has been brought to the issue. However, despite the interest in aiding the cause, there remains an absence of statistics on how many Canadians are affected by menstrual poverty.
“A lot of the data found is not from this country,” says Lukindo.
The research team started with a look at how it affects adolescents in Nova Scotia. Over 400 Nova Scotian youth responded to an online survey with well over the majority reporting not being able to afford their menstrual products at some point.
The immensity of the problem is further magnified when considering who would not have been sampled by the survey.
“This is a very specific population that would have been able to access our online survey,” says Lukindo. “We’re missing the population who don’t have the internet or who don’t have devices connected to the internet, as well as people who don’t speak English.”
The survey used to collect this data was developed by Lukindo and her research colleagues. The tool consisted of 25 questions with themes around physical access and affordability of menstrual products, usage and alternatives, the impact on their quality of life, and the impact of COVID-19 on their access to menstrual products.
“We wanted to have the data to substantiate experiences,” explains Lukindo, referring to the current government and school programs that provide free menstrual products from guidance counsellors and in public buildings. Lukindo suggests that their research will help support more of these programs to develop and amplify the changes that have already happened.
There are a lot of opportunities here that we’re hoping to explore,” says Lukindo. “If this is the primary, then I think it’s safe to say that there’s a very high need within this issue, especially when this topic intersects with other barriers.”
Funding for this research was provided by the Imhotep’s Legacy Academy and Dalhousie’s Faculty of Medicine. Imhotep’s Legacy Academy has a goal of increasing the number of people of African descent in S.T.E.M. programs and promoting leadership in health for African Nova Scotians.