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Ontario student’s push for accessible menstrual products grows into organization now helping thousands

TORONTO — When Isabela Rittinger started advocating for equal access to menstruation products last year, she had no idea what she had started would soon snowball into an organization of over 100 volunteers.

At the time, Rittinger, a first-year student at Queen’s University, had just learned that one in three Canadians who use menstruation products struggle to afford them.

“I realized this is something that was not only impacting countries in the quote-unquote global South, but that is happening right here in our backyards,” she told CTV News Toronto on Saturday.

When the pandemic struck, Rittinger decided to work on raising awareness on the issue from her hometown of Pickering, Ont.

“I kind of figured that for the few weeks that I was home, I would work on this project,” she said.

“Then, once school started and everything was back to normal, I could say that I was able to do some good with the time that I had.”

As it turned out, Rittinger would work on this project for much longer than a few weeks. In fact, she now heads the organization born from her initial research — Bleed The North.

“We collect and distribute donated period products to individuals and communities who need them across Ontario,” Rittinger said.

“Last year, our goal was [to donate] 4,000 period products and we ended up donating over 20,000.”

This year, she says, the organization set their sights on 40,000 products donated — a goal she says they surpassed in July.

Rittinger says the advocacy team works on “promoting, creating and advancing legislation in Ontario Legislature,” while the education team tackles “the lack of education as a whole in regards to menstruation.”

The group is entirely volunteer-based and youth-led, mostly compromised of high school and university students.

“This is also a volunteer organization — everyone is doing this out of compassion and their passion for the issue, and everyone acknowledges that no work can be done if everybody is burned out.”

When asked what her goals for Bleed The North are, Rittinger says she would love to see the organization open chapters across the country.

“We realize that there is a need for [affordable menstruation products] across the country and we want to do our part to address that for as many people as possible.” 

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