Periods are too often a source of shame, fear and embarrassment for young Canadians. New research from Always and Plan International Canada reveals that 83 per cent of young people in Canada (aged 13-21) say they have tried to hide the fact they are on their period and 50 per cent have lied about it. A shocking 58 per cent of young women have felt ashamed or embarrassed by their period.
These issues are not unique to Canada. Around the world, period stigma can cause people to refrain from normal, everyday activities such as sports, bathing and cooking. A lack of access to period products and sanitation facilities can affect their health and keep them from attending school and work or social events.
“The number of people who feel ashamed to talk about periods is staggering, but the issue worsens when you consider the impact of period poverty and stigma,” says Lindsay Glassco, Plan International Canada’s President & CEO. “If we cannot talk about periods because they are ‘taboo’, we fail to address serious issues around accessibility and affordability of menstrual products, as well as the knock-on impacts of girls missing out on education and inclusion in social and cultural activities.”
Always and Plan International Canada believe that periods should not be a setback for anyone and are committed to combating these challenges in Canada and around the world. They do this by providing free menstrual health education to young people and community members, as well as enabling access to period products, and sparking conversations around periods to fight the stigma.
This Menstrual Hygiene Day, Always and Plan International Canada are calling on all Canadians to join in by learning more and talking more openly about periods. They’re rallying people to share their personal period stories at plancanada.ca/LetsTalkPeriods. By doing so, everyone can help show the world that periods are a natural, healthy part of life – and something that should be talked about!
“For more than 35 years, Always has been committed to creating positive social norms around menstruation and helping young people have access to the period products they need to stay confident and continue all their day to day activities,” said Geraldine Huse, President, P&G Canada. “This report further highlights the critical need to continue to tackle period stigma in Canada and ensure that everyone is equipped with the information needed to have period conversations. By talking openly about periods and advocating for period-friendly legislation, we can normalize what is in fact a normal part of life.”
Key findings from the let’s talk periods! Report
The Let’s Talk Periods! Report, based on quantitative national surveys of more than 3,000 Canadians and 30,000 people globally, showed that there is significant period stigma in Canada. Other findings include:
First periods: When young people get their first period, 39 per cent report feeling confused, 36 per cent are scared and 37 per cent do not feel prepared. This is reinforced by the fact that nearly 1 in 4 young people do not know why some people get periods and how to manage them.
Period shame: While period shame is more prevalent among young women in Canada (58 per cent of those aged 13-21), a high percentage of all age groups report having felt shame or embarrassment – 44 per cent of those aged 44-56 and 41 per cent of those aged 57-70, for example.
Periods are seen as taboo: Canada ranks in the bottom half of countries surveyed in terms of society’s support of talking opening about periods. Portugal tops the list, with 84 per cent of society being supportive of talking openly about menstruation, whilst Canada is tied with Romania at 66 per cent. In fact, Canadians are more comfortable talking openly about sex or politics (49 per cent), than periods (46 per cent).
Talking more openly helps: The research showed that in households where people talk openly about periods, young women feel more supported (62 per cent vs. 40 per cent), confident (26 per cent vs. 17 per cent) and less awkward (20 per cent vs. 59 per cent), than in households that do not talk openly about periods.
Raiha Shareef, a Plan International Canada Youth Ambassador, is helping drive change. “I was taught growing up that menstruation was shameful, disgusting, and dirty. I would always hide my pad or tampon in my pocket or up my sleeve. It was not until recently that I called myself out on this stigmatized practice. In order to bring justice to menstruators facing period poverty, or other period related issues, we must celebrate menstruation and bring periods into the narrative in a positive way.”
About the let’s talk periods! Report
The Let’s Talk Periods! report is a culmination of three research studies fielded by independent research agencies, including Glocalities, an international research agency specialized in societal values. The three studies are: a global survey of 30,057 adults 18-70 (1,033 in Canada) conducted in January-February 2019, a Canadian survey of 1,027 Canadian adults 18-70 conducted in January-February 2020 and a survey of 1,095 young people in Canada ages 13-21 in May-June 2020.
Always®, the world's leader in menstrual protection, offers a wide range of pads, wipes and liners designed to fit different body types, period flows and preferences. For over 35 years, Always has been empowering millions of girls globally through puberty and confidence education, providing products to those in need and tackling societal barriers to their confidence through the Always #LikeAGirl movement. Together, Always believes we can create a world where neither periods nor gender get in the way of young people reaching their full potential. This is part of Always and P&G’s ongoing commitment to gender equality and is among the efforts to deliver 2,021 Acts of Good in 2021.
Visit www.always.com for more information.
About Plan International Canada
Plan International's work in menstrual health and hygiene is rooted in gender equality and evidence of the harmful impacts that not being able to manage one's period can have on girls, women and those who menstruate. Our work includes sharing information about periods, talking with community members, particularly men and boys and ensuring everyone understands the importance of access to menstrual products. We provide women and girls locally sourced menstrual hygiene products through several channels including schools and humanitarian programs, and we support local women and girls led entrepreneurship in producing period products. Plan International Canada is a member of a global organization dedicated to advancing children’s rights and equality for girls. Plan International has been building powerful partnerships for children for over 80 years and is now active in more than 75 countries.
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