Linda Biggs is convinced that paying for menstrual-care products at school or work will soon be as unthinkable as paying for toilet paper. “There is so much shame and stigma around menstruation, but it’s a bodily function like any other,” says the Victoria-based co-founder of joni period-care products.
Now a new partnership with Camosun College is helping make that a reality, and creating a model for businesses and other organizations, too.
Biggs and Jayesh Vekariya founded joni to combat the stark reality that a third of menstruating Canadians under the age of 25 simply can’t afford the period-care products they need. “Accessibility to period care in Canada is a real issue,” Biggs says.
They launched their line of affordable, sustainable, bamboo-and-cornstarch products in March 2020, and have committed to setting aside five per cent of revenue to fight period poverty.
They also created the joni dispenser, which, unlike traditional dispensers, is free to use and designed not to become obsolete as products change. “We created a dispenser that is essentially future proof,” Biggs says.
Two Victoria coworking spaces, Club Kwench and the Dock, have installed the free dispensers. But the Camosun College initiative is the biggest yet. “The student union and librarians saw the need and committed to the project,” Biggs says. “They have just rolled out our open dispensers across the campus so students have access to menstrual care. And they are available in gender-neutral bathrooms as well.”
Biggs points out that offering free, accessible period care is a good way for businesses and institutions to address issues of employee equity, and notes that the provincial government has also made period poverty a priority.
“I think that five years from now it will be shocking that we ever had to pay for menstrual products,” she says.