Ending Period Poverty

Linda Biggs and Jayesh Vekariya. Photo by Jeffrey Bosdet.

by Athena McKenzie

Local period care company Joni was started because of an alarming statistic: one in three Canadians under the age of 25 are unable to afford period care. Cofounder Jayesh Vekariya was working on his masters in entrepreneurship at UVic when he started researching the period industry.

“What he found was a real lack of innovation, extreme margins and inequity in the access to period care,” says cofounder Linda Biggs. “We launched Joni as a social enterprise with a one-for-one model so that we can make a real impact toCanadian communities … Period equity is a complex issue, but, at the core, it’s about having access to period care, and,unfortunately, there are millions of people in Canada who do not have that basic right.”

Biggs shares that people are often shocked to learn that people in Canada, a developed country, do not have access to these basic needs.

“When we need a pad or tampon, we get one from the store,” she says. “But what happens if you are without a home, and you don’t have the funds to purchase what you need? I myself grew up in a home with a single mother and three sisters, and there wasn’t money to go around. We often had to borrow from friends or use tampons and pads for longer than they should be used. I didn’t know it was period poverty then … That’s where the risk comes in. Using products for too long increases our health risks.”

For every pad purchased at getjoni.com, the company donates one, working with nonprofits such as The Period Purse,Mamas for Mamas and Twelve Donations. Joni also offers a Karma Box — 30 pads that people can purchase for donation.

“It’s a direct donation, which is when we donate it to local shelters like The Cridge [Centre for the Family] or Peers [VictoriaRescue Society], as needed,” Biggs says.

Additional factors distinguish Joni from other companies in the fem-tech industry. They create the only bamboo pad in Canada, which uses 10 times less water to produce than organic cotton.

“Our pads are all-natural, so they break down on average 92 per cent within six months, versus the conventional plastic pads that take over 300-plus years,” Biggs says. “Our pad wrapper is a compostable plastic, but we understand that it’s still plastic, and we’re working on ways to eliminate that altogether … We believe in progress over perfection — small steps can make big impacts.”