Menstrual Research Group

About

The Douglas College Menstrual Research Group was founded in 2020 to focus on menstrual equity and health in Canada. It is comprised of researchers from the Sociology and Earth Sciences departments, as well as Student Research Assistants at Douglas College, and researchers from other institutions across Canada. 


Research Projects

Current Projects

This exploratory research aims to document existing community supports and services for those experiencing menstrual precarity in Surrey, BC. Overall, the aim of this research is to support and inform policy advocacy and increased support for menstruators in Surrey and to shed further light on period poverty. Phase 1 of this project will involve in-depth interviews with individuals currently working in organizations serving the community

Researchers: Kiran Parmar (Primary Researcher, UBC), Lisa Smith (Co-Investigator, Douglas College)

This research study aims to examine the intersections between menstrual stigma, sexual stigma, and cultural background.  The project will address the following research questions: How do second-generation South Asian immigrants conceptualize and experience menstrual stigma? How do second-generation South Asian immigrants conceptualize and experience sexual wellness and stigma?

Findings from this study will be used to critically analyse cultural determinants of body stigma, as related to sex and menstruation. Research findings will support more inclusive sexual health education and policy that addresses the specific needs of immigrant communities in Canada. 

Researchers: Deyvika Srinivasa (Project Lead, Douglas College and UBC), Lisa Smith (Co-Investigator, Douglas College), Rim Gacimi (Ethics review and support)

This research study will involve a series of 40 in-depth qualitative interviews with advocates involved in the menstrual equity movement in Canada. Interviews will take place in British Columbia and Québec to allow for an understanding of regional differences, as well as lay the groundwork for a cross-Canada study. Interviews will explore what pulls advocates into taking this work up as a political issue. In addition, the project seeks to elucidate the labour of advocates as a broader reflection of inequitable distribution of political work along gender lines.

Researchers: Francesca Scala (Co-Investigator, Concordia University), Lisa Smith (Primary Investigator, Douglas College), Deyvika Srinivasa (Student Research Assistant, Douglas College and UBC)

Funding: Douglas College and Concordia University

Researchers: Alicia Horton (Primary Investigator, Douglas College), Lisa Smith (Co-Investigator, Douglas College)

More information coming soon

Past Projects

Research on menstrual product availability in the post-secondary context and effects on students was undertaken in 2019 by Dr. Tribe and Dr. Smith. The goal of the project was to examine how students managed menstruation while on campus and if the current availability of menstrual supplies adversely impacted their education.

Aided by 7 Student Research Assistants, the team conducted a physical audit of all sources of menstrual supplies on and around a post-secondary institution and surveyed 370+ students.  Results showed gaps and barriers to availability, and how poor access to menstrual supplies led to anxiety, missed classes, academic penalties, and staying at home. Research results are reported in "Post-Secondary Periods: Access to Menstrual Supplies on Campus and Impacts on Students."


Policy

 

Dr. Tribe advocates for updates to restroom policies across the country to include emergency menstrual supplies:

  • Advisor to Ministry of Labour to amend federal Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulations to include emergency menstrual supplies in federally regulated restrooms across the country;
     
  • Submitted Code Change Request 1441 to National Research Council Canada to amend the National Building Code of Canada to include menstrual supplies in restrooms outside the home;
     
  • In collaboration with City of Port Coquitlam Councillor Nancy McCurrach, submitted resolutions to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities:
    • (1) to support changes to federal and provincial Occupational Health and Safety regulations and Building Codes across the country to include menstrual supplies in restrooms outside the home,
    • (2) to generate funds and programming to combat period poverty across the country;
       
  • In collaboration with City of Port Coquitlam Councillor Nancy McCurrach, submitted a successful resolution to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities for menstrual supplies in civic restrooms in municipalities across British Columbia;
     
  • In partnership with City of Vancouver Councillors, gained approval for a pilot project to supply menstrual products in civic restrooms across Vancouver;
     
  • In partnership with Vancouver Parks Board Commissioner Gwen Giesbrecht, gained approval to provide menstrual supplies in parks and community centre restrooms across Vancouver.

Some quick facts on periods and menstrual supplies: 

  • Menstruation is a healthy yet unpredictable bodily function. 
  • Most women have missed school, work, business, and social activities because of their period and the difficulty finding menstrual supplies.
  • Most women's and universal restrooms in the public domain have no menstrual product dispensers.
  • Restroom regulations include everything men need to conveniently manage their bodily functions (urinals, toilets, supplies) yet women must bring their own money and supplies to the restroom.
  • The cost to provide emergency menstrual supplies is modest and offset by increased attendance and engagement of students, employees, customers, and clients.

Our research shows that study participants reported the following: 

  • 68% have started their period unexpectedly while on campus; 
  • 69% experienced a spill, leak, stain or overflow of menstrual blood while on campus; 
  • 67% had to leave class while in session to manage menstrual flow; 
  • 46% were late for class in order to manage menstrual flow; 
  • 49% missed, had to leave, or arrived late for class because they did not have the menstrual products they needed readily available; 

When asked how they manage unexpected periods or menstrual leaks while on campus:  

  • 67% used toilet paper as a make-shift pad; 
  • 47% asked a friend for menstrual product; 
  • 17% went home and stayed home; 
  • 15% left campus to purchase a menstrual product; 
  • Study participants report missing exams, assignments, lectures due to lack of menstrual supplies; 
  • Study participants shared frustrations about empty dispensers, high cost of menstrual products, and generally the lack of tampons and pads in restrooms where they are most needed. 

Meet the Founders

Lisa S
Dr. Smith is a Faculty Member and Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Douglas College. Her areas of research expertise are sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence and community-engaged sociology.

Dr. Lisa Smith
Selina T
Dr. Tribe is a Faculty Member in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Douglas College. She played an important role in getting free menstrual supplies into school restrooms across B.C., and continues to lead the efforts on policy change around menstrual equity throughout Canada.

Dr. Selina Tribe

Contact Us

For more information, contact

Dr. Lisa Smith and Dr. Selina Tribe