Moon Time Sisters - True North Aid provides practical humanitarian assistance to those in need in Canada’s northern Indigenous communities. This includes access to menstrual health and management resources.
We spoke to Veronica Brown, Ontario Chapter Lead of Moon Time Sisters (MTS), to learn more about how individuals in Canada’s northern communities cope with monthly menstruation and period pain management specifically, and what we can do to help.
Lack of Access, Options and AffordabilityDIVA: How available are menstrual products in the communities you serve?
Veronica Brown: We recently completed a survey of northern menstruators across the country and asked the question “How often do you find yourself without access to Moon Time (period) products?” Of the communities we surveyed, 73% of Indigenous respondents said that they sometimes or always have issues accessing period products.
Since its inception, MTS has provided over 2 million free menstrual products to 100+ northern communities. Through these relationships, we have listened to different stories about access and affordability in individual regions of the country. It varies from coast to coast to coast, but what we hear more often than not is there is a distinct lack of product, a lack of variety of product, and affordable products. So even when it is available, it’s often cost prohibitive.
D: What factors stand in the way of the individuals receiving the menstrual care they deserve?
VB: This is a loaded question. From an overarching standpoint, the continuing impact of colonialism on Indigenous Peoples is the root cause of the menstrual inequity they’re facing. Geography is another factor that stands in the way of access to menstrual care. A lot of northern communities are fly-in, so factors like weather can have an effect on product availability. Snowstorms, icy road conditions, and heavy rains can cancel or delay cargo flights for long periods of time, and when that happens only high priority essentials are sent first; despite being a basic necessity, period products don't usually make the cut.
Many communities also don't have their own stores, which means driving hours to access necessities like groceries and household items. When and if stores have period products, it's typically one brand, so what is there is what you get, leaving no room for the personal and specific needs or preferences of menstruators.
Affordability is another factor. As previously mentioned, when menstrual products are available in northern communities, it is often priced so high that it’s not accessible to the average consumer. We know anecdotally that many have had to choose between grocery items or menstrual products.
Period Poverty and Working with Each CommunityD: How does Moon Time Sisters promote power and solidarity of menstruators living in northern Indigenous communities?
VB: We work with them. We don’t just send whatever products we get and think they need. We connect directly with each Community, we ask what they need, and we send only the items they request. We ship products to each Community directly, removing the need for travel. We offer not only a full range of products—from disposable pads and tampons to menstrual cups and period underwear—but also a variety of brands, styles, and absorbencies.
Community members deserve to have a voice in the process and the dignity of choice. We also support all menstruators—this, of course, includes Two-Spirit and trans menstruators who are especially impacted by colonialism.
We use our platform to talk about Community. We share their stories and raise awareness about the colonial barriers they face daily, including the impact of menstrual inequality. We continue to hear from settlers that they had no idea this was an issue in Canada. But for Indigenous Nations, this is not a new topic.
How to Attend to Painful Periods and Relieve Menstrual CrampsD: How available are methods of pain management for menstruators living in northern Indigenous communities?
VB: Pain management isn’t always something that is talked about, but after receiving requests for hot water bottles and heating pads, we’ve added these items to our product wish list during donation drives. The same factors affecting access to menstrual products apply to accessing pain management for menstruation—lack of availability, lack of variety and affordability.
D: What are the implications of any hindrances to pain management?
VB: We aren’t sure of the hindrances due to lack of pain management specifically, but this is a topic we’re exploring and trying to learn more about. We know more about the implications of lack of period products, both anecdotally and from survey results. We know menstruators have had to miss work and school and other daily activities like exercise due to not having menstrual products.
D: How can we support Moon Time Sisters and your initiatives to support menstruators?
VB: Help us raise awareness, both of our work and the issues being faced by northern communities. Sharing our work and growing our audience on social media platforms has had a direct and positive impact on our donation drives and helped us increase the amount of product we’ve been able to collect.
We function solely on the support of our Community, so the more people who know about what we do and why we do this work, the more product we are able to send north.
DIVA has already graciously donated hundreds of cups and educational materials, which has helped to encourage more menstruators to use cups or other sustainable period products. Talking about access to pain relief is something that is often missed during period equity conversations, and it's a huge barrier for many people who suffer from painful Moon Times.
We accept donations of new hot water bottles and heating pads, and other non-medicinal ways to help alleviate pain and discomfort.
Follow Moon Time Sisters on Instagram and Facebook. Check out their donation page on the True North Aid website. Share this blog to increase awareness and help grow their community of support!
We hope to continue to learn more about menstrual pain management disparities, how they impact the people impacted by them, and what we can do to bridge these gaps and support everyone who menstruates!