For the past two years, SHORE (Sexual Health Options, Resources & Education) Centre in Kitchener, has organized a public outreach event to dispel sexual health myths and foster discussion called “Fact or Friction.” For its third year, with the same goal to correct misinformation and further awareness, the Centre has chosen to focus solely on menstruation. Tonight, Wednesday, March 27, Shore Centre will host a free, public event “Myth or Menstruation” from 7:00 – 9:00 PM at Cafe Pyrus, 16 Charles St W in Kitchener. (Note: Those wanting to grab a bite from the Cafe are encouraged to arrive before the event’s 7:00 PM start.)
Stacey Jacobs, Sexual Health Education Manager at SHORE, has been a longtime champion of education surrounding menstruation. Helping her spearhead and organize this particular event are three students completing their practicums at the centre: Jasmine Chan is an undergraduate student working on her practicum through University of Waterloo‘s Sexuality, Marriage and Family programme; Leah Swann, a student at Renison Univesity College on UW’s campus, is completing her practicum towards a BA in Social Work; and Vivila Yujuan Liu, completing an MA in Community Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, will be staying on as a Student Sexual Health Educator at SHORE once her practicum ends in April.
In preparation, the students, on behalf of SHORE Centre, solicited stories about menstruation from the Waterloo Region and eight stories will be shared and read by them this evening. The Centre hopes to raise community awareness and empower women, non-binary and transgender people in the community who experience menstruation.
Jasmine sees the event as an important opportunity to share that “although we all go through the same thing, we go through it in different ways and it’s acknowledging everyone’s experiences and all menstruators’ experiences.” Leah agrees, “I think there’s also power in knowing that your situation is similar to what other people go through. That you’re not alone.”
The students will be sharing some facts about menstruation, highlighting various movements and sharing information about period equity.
With a change in the Ontario provincial government last summer, a lot of uncertainty arose as to whether adequate health discussions are happening in schools to meet the needs of every student in attendance. SHORE Centre continues to field many questions about the #SexEd curriculum being offered in Ontario schools.
It’s another reason why, Leah adds, it’s so vital to host free events like this that are open to the community so that people can “talk about menstruation and have these conversations in a really positive safe space.” But not everyone is comfortable to talk about their sexual health in a crowd or at a public event.
Vivila, who offers workshops, some specifically targeting Chinese students, also runs her own sex education channel on Youtube. She says using social media has proven another powerful medium by which to engage and educate the community. “Students can ask the questions they were not able to ask in front of their peers,” she explains. Online you can find and follow SHORE Centre on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Vivila says users often feel more comfortable approaching the centre anonymously via these media.
The event tonight certainly welcomes those who are feeling shy about learning or discussing menstruation and encourages them to come out! Hosting a public, community event means attendees can still listen, learn and feel supported while not necessarily feeling pressured to discuss or seek information in person or in a crowd. Additionally, such a public event about menstruation goes a long way towards trying to break down the taboos and normalize open discussions about what happens to our bodies.
I’m told by Leah that if you add up all the days on average someone has their period over their lifetime and lay those days in a row end to end, it equates to about seven years’ worth of time spent menstruating. That’s an enormous chunk of our lives. And the average cost of menstrual care products over a lifetime can total $12,000 dollars.
For some, that cost is prohibitive. Stacey informs me the Food Bank was recently loathe to ask a mother of three daughters (all four menstruating in one home) to have to choose between a food donation or pads. So if you are coming to the event tonight, attendees are encouraged to bring new, unopened packages of tampons or maxi pads that will be donated to the Food Bank of Waterloo Region which always has a shortage on menstrual care products.
Please come out tonight and show your support, not just to acknowledge the vital work SHORE Centre provides to our community, but to applaud access to information and open discussion of menstruation in a supportive setting, a topic not regularly given its due or proper focus, especially publicly. We all need to work to break down the barriers people may face learning about and discussing this particular and completely natural part of the sexual health of women, girls, non-binary and transgender individuals.
Again, the event happens tonight from 7:00-9:00 PM at Cafe Pyrus. See you there!