HealthThe Change Makers

Should Public Bathrooms Supply Free Pads and Tampons?

Taran and Bunny Ghatrora, the founders of Ellebox believe that public washrooms should stock pads and tampons. Learn more about why they are passionate about this important conversation and join the discussion with us.

Pads and tampons are some of the most needed and least donated products across Canada.

Why? They’re often forgotten about because talking about periods is still taboo for many. For women living on or near the poverty line, food and other basic needs are  often prioritized over menstrual hygiene products. Menstrual products are also necessities, not simply a want.

Every person with a period deserves access to pads and tampons. Toilet paper is free in every bathroom, because like menstrual products, they are necessities. Whether it be a business or a school, all bathrooms should provide pads and tampons.

I know some of you are thinking – women should just be prepared…? Well, MOST of the time they are. But often periods can catch you off guard, especially if you have health problems. This is especially difficult if you are homeless and have to choose between buying food or period products. Added to these existing difficulties in finding pads and tampons, experiencing homelessness can severely impact whether a woman is able to have access to basic hygiene care needs.

But really, does it even matter? We aren’t expected to carry toilet paper around, so why are period products any different?

Menstrual care products should NOT be treated any different. Half the population has a period every month. This is not a “niche” experience but one that affects a significant portion of people

Menstrual equity. What’s that?

Let’s dive in!

Little Bird Media and Surrey604 are telling the stories of women who have experienced homelessness and living on the streets in Vancouver and other parts of Canada.

They all shared one thing – they experienced having their period, every month!

Ellebox held a pad and tampon drive in Surrey in March and thanks to the generous contributions of the community, they were able to collect over 7,000 pads and tampons, meeting 10% percent of their yearly goal. All of the donations were donated to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver. The drive was featured in an episode of the Change Makers (below).

Ellebox also packed over 100 donation gift bags of personal care products. Their goal is to donate 75,000 products over the next 12 months, which will give the centre a year’s supply for the 300+ women that rely on the support of the DTES Women’s Centre. For 40 years, the DTES Women’s Centre has provided a safe space for women and children in Vancouver. At Ellebox, they see access to period products as essential to their refuge. For ways you can contribute please contact

Why does this cause matter?

While filming for an episode of The Change Makers, Creating Better Periods, several women tell us they have had to DIY their menstrual care with the following:

  • Toilet paper
  • Rags or socks
  • A towel, rewashed in the river
  • Shoplifting to get products

During our discussion with these women, we talked about the discrepancy between the number of bathrooms that provide condom dispensers, but not pads and tampons. Even if these dispensing machines exist, they are usually ancient, so it’s uncertain if they’re actually going to work.

The Tampon Tax

To top it all off, tampons are taxed as a luxury product in 36 states in the US, and until recently, in Canada too. (Our government heard us, and changed this in 2015!) This makes them more expensive to buy and limits to the choices women can make about their period care. Tampons are not a luxury! They cannot be compared to products like diamond jewelry, cigarettes and donuts. To make it worse, items like cocktail cherries and wedding cakes are not subject to the tax.

Tampons are just another way that women have agency over their bodies, and by taxing them, we essentially take away that agency.

Periods and Education overseas

The issues women and girls experience because of a lack of education about their periods and bodies can have even worse consequences overseas. Political and cultural pressures mean that information about periods or choices for period hygiene are simply not available.

Women and girls are left unable to participate in school, work and social activities without adequate period care. This lack of access is hindering global development. That’s why Ellebox has partnered with Day’s for Girls, a non-profit organization that works to empower women and girls worldwide through sustainable menstrual care and health education.

Learn more about our #nomorelimits campaign and help them raise a $1000 here.

But it’s 2018! How is this still a problem?!

Ellebox asked some of the amazing people who came by to donate why they believe that period care products are some of the least donated items across Canada. These are some of the answers! Don’t feel bad if you fit into one of these categories, they did too!

  • Taboo surrounding periods
  • Expensive
  • People don’t know about the lack of or need for these products
  • Not talked about, so the issue gets forgotten

Every woman deserves access to feminine hygiene. Menstrual hygiene is not a privilege it’s a right. This goes to the heart of basic dignity for women. But many women do not have access to the products they need, unlike other products provided out of necessity. Ellebox aims to increase access through efforts like our pad and tampon drive and by coordinating with other companies to ensure that all businesses and offices carry tampons and pads.

So how do we get women convenient access to these products?

Ellebox is providing access to period care products through community partnerships. If you’re a company who wants to provide organic tampons for your employees, contact us. They’d love to work with you!

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Joseph Kafka
I am at heart a video content creator and storyteller with love for photography. I have discovered three important truths about marketing and creativity so far: (1) Whether you're Business to Business or Business to Customer, it’s all people to people, (2) The shortest distance between two people is a story, (3) openness to discovery is the pathway to creativity and sharing.