For folks with bodies that menstruate, some exciting news is flowing downstream. Changing The Flow, a Waterloo Region-based social enterprise focused on menstrual equity, recently unveiled the first two editions of their new period product holders featuring work from local artists.
The project, called Inclusion: Period Boxes for You, aims to supply free period products in public restrooms. These boxes feature inclusive art symbolizing menstrual equity and accessibility.
The enterprises’ vision is to ensure that people have access to period products in every public and workplace washroom. They also work to destigmatize menstruation through conversations and proper education.
While Changing the Flow is taking charge with activism, they also offer menstrual products in their online store. One of Changing the Flow’s main products is the Period Box, a box exclusively designed for period products in a way that is functional. Their compact designs are meant to fit on the back of a toilet or a bathroom counter. This box, though physically small, makes a huge change for folks who menstruate to feel like they belong.
“I want the gay community to feel seen and I want to help empower people of colour so they don’t feel alone—so we don’t feel alone,” Alana Decker, one of the featured artists, said.
Decker created “No Shame In My Flow Game,” which is featured on Box One. She is a Black, bisexual mother of four living in the Waterloo Region. During the day she is a bilingual credit analyst, and by night she embraces art in all its forms.
For many period-havers, discussing periods and menstruation can sometimes be more painful than cramps. Many menstrual product ads stick to using flowery language to describe frequently unpleasant feelings. This can sometimes be partonizing for those who experience menstruation.
“The name came to me because I shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed about having my period. The piece itself of showing black hands together is really just to show that people of colour belong in the community. I wanted to show the unity of the BIPOC community. I wanted the art to create its own world,” Decker said.
The first phase of the project features two Black artists from the Waterloo Region. Alongside Decker’s work is Box Two, called “Let’s Talk About It,” which was designed by another Black artist from Waterloo Region whose identity is not revealed. They are referred to as Anno Neemiswr, a pseudonym created to protect their identity.
“We always want to be inclusive of the Black and Indigenous community, the 2SLGBTQ+ communities in our area. We wanted to give the artists room to grow. We gave the theme of inclusion and asked them what they wanted the boxes to look like,” Kevin Hiebert, interim president of Changing the Flow, said.
Additionally, the Period Box acts as an artistic platform featuring works of art. Its sides are specifically reserved for local artists from under-represented communities.
Many period-havers attest that they do not see themselves in ads for menstrual products. In addition to overly glorifying periods, not all bodies, genders, races and abilities are represented in them.
“Being on my period is not really something I like. Sometimes I feel like, why do I have to be a girl? I have learned how to maneuver with it, whether I like it or not. The only thing that I wish is that it’s not something that everyone should feel ashamed of. I don’t want my kids to ever feel like they have to hide or be scared,” Decker said.
Changing the Flow’s leadership team ensured that the artists are financially compensated and that the boxes signal that the community is working to destigmatize menstruation and normalize talking about periods.
“The catalyst [for the program] was finding the ways to bring people together, specifically bringing different pieces together meaningfully. We wanted to create the same message of positivity. Let people know we got their backs,” Hiebert said.
Folks can find period boxes in the following locations: Cambridge’s Juici Yoga, Kitchener Public Libraries, the W Centre in Kitchener, SPECTRUM Waterloo Region’s Rainbow Community Space, The Shore Centre, ACCKWA (two locations), Sanguen Health Centre (three locations) and now the Community Edition office.