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Kemlin Nembhard: Period Poverty. Why it should be everybody’s business

Fact: A study done in 2022 concluded that 1 in 4 Canadian women are forced to choose between buying meals and period products. On this episode of Humans, on Rights, the Executive Director of the Women’s Health Clinic, Kemlin Nembhard (she, her) shares her views on the challenges women face when it comes to purchasing period products. Kemlin’s experience growing up in Winnipeg as a child of Jamaican immigrants in a predominately white school system shaped her identity as an activist and a feminist. Kemlin talks about how the current health system devalues women, leading to less research and resources for their health issues. She explains that while there is a push for reusable products, which may drive down the costs as well as decrease the environmental impact, these reusable products may not be comfortable or feasible for everyone. We talk about the stigma surrounding menstrual products and how this topic should be part of the school curriculum. Finally, Kemlin reminds us to “take time to honour yourself and take action for yourself before asking others to do it.”

Episode Transcript:

Stuart Murray 0:00

This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty One Territory, their traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and the Dene peoples and on the homeland of the Métis nation.

Amanda Logan (Voiceover) 0:19

This is Humans On Rights, a podcast advocating for the education of human rights. Here's your host, Stuart Murray.

Stuart Murray 0:30

Period poverty, why it should be everyone's business. Period poverty, defined as a lack of access to menstrual products, hygiene facilities, waste management and education, affects many women globally causing physical, mental and emotional challenge. The stigma that shrouds periods further prevents individuals from talking about it. Lack of data and limited research on period of poverty are challenges. Hence, more research and engagement are called for. Period poverty, like other forms of poverty, can be debilitating. It can take different forms and has emotional, physical and mental health effects on individuals. More than half of the world's population are menstruating people. It is high time period poverty becomes everybody's business. On today's podcast, I am delighted to be joined by Kamlin Nembhard, who is the Executive Director of the Women's Health Clinic. Let me welcome you. And then we're going to talk a little bit about you. But welcome to Humans On Rights, Kemlin.

Kemlin Nembhard 1:38

Thank you. Hello. Thank you for having me.

Stuart Murray 1:40

So Kemlin, we obviously have a big topic to talk about. But you know, I'd love to get a sense of your life's journey. You are, as I said, the executive director of the Women's Health Clinic, but talk about your journey. How you- where you went to school? What got you interested in women's issues? You know, who is Kemlin Nembhard?

Kemlin Nembhard 2:01

Oh my gosh. That could probably be a long conversation. But I'm not born in Winnipeg. But I grew up in Winnipeg. So I'm originally from Jamaica. I grew up here, Winnipeg. And so I'm, you know, Winnipeg is my home. I've lived in a lot of different places as well. Gosh, I think I have been a feminist and identified as a feminist, certainly, since my early teens. I was brought up by a really strong, independent black woman. My mom always worked also. And so both my parents worked. So you know, I think, unlike a lot of kids that I went to school with, whose- whose mom stayed home, right, like my mom was out. And she was often the executive director of- she was the executive director of different nonprofits. And she was also, you know, a childcare director for many, many years. Right. And so I, it's very common in my family as well, like, both on my, my father's side, on my mom's side, these really strong women, independent women who were doing really big things in their community. Right? And so it's funny because my mom, I think, didn't so much identify herself as a feminist, but definitely the role model that she presented for me was as a feminist, right? And so that would probably be the first place I would start, as well as I think growing up in Winnipeg, when I did so in the early 70s. There weren't a lot of black people around my age. I went to school, in the like the Francais program, so in not immersion, but in the French program. And like, for most of my schooling, from kindergarten to grade 12, I was the only black kid. I admit that definitely had its challenges. And so I think being treated as an outsider, in many ways, also just had a really big impact on me and in terms of how I see the world and how I wanted to interact with the world as well. And so from a very early age, I became, I wouldn't say politically active, but definitely, like activist, an activist. So whether it was environmental things, women's movement, the peace movement, anti nuclear, community building, like all of those sorts of things, were all things that I became really active with, even as like, you know, in my junior high years, and even early like elementary school, and then I went to University of Winnipeg, and I have a- I have a BA with- and I have three majors in environmental studies, geography and Social and Economic Development Studies, which I think kind of tells a good story in itself. In terms of the work that I've done, and sort of where my mind always was, and I also have a BSc. I have a minor in botany.

Stuart Murray 4:58

In botany.

Kemlin Nembhard 4:59


Stuart Murray 5:00

Wow. Okay.

Kemlin Nembhard 5:01

So yeah, and in many ways you did exactly what university is supposed to do, right? It really set me up for all the things that I've done in my life, you know, and I have done a variety of different things. I've worked in a variety of different places, mostly in the nonprofit sector, here in Winnipeg, I also worked in East Africa, I lived in East Africa, in Tanzania for three, almost three years, and worked at a local women's organization there. But I also have done a lot of work in community here, both in terms of things like in the environmental movement, I've worked, you know, I worked in the National Student Movement through the Canadian Federation of Students, I also worked at a spinoff of the Women's Health Clinic in the 90s, the Canadian Women's Health Network, you know, so I've done a variety of different things. And you know, prior to this, I was the executive director of a neighborhood organization and community development in my neighborhood, so the St. Matthews Community Association, so that's really, I think, like, all of those things, for me really encompass kind of, you know, who I am, and really do tell a story about my journey. Right? And- and I think, ultimately, for me, it's always been about social justice, environmental justice, human rights, and that I see all of these things as just, they're just different parts of the same picture. Right? And so, which is, you know, when I was doing my undergrad and doing three different majors, that is exactly that, to- reflecting that, that, for me, they're just, it's all part of the same picture. It's just different- different parts of it, right? If we're looking at a panorama, and once you step back, you- they make- they make up the entire picture, right? Around social justice itself, and that all of those different parts are really important. Two things. One is first lessons I learned as a feminist is that the personal is political. Right? And I think that being active in all of those different areas is because really, the most important thing to do is to organize where you're at. So if you, you are having issues around, having a safe place to live, you know, organize where you're at in terms of housing, and you know, safe shelter, right? If you are in university or college, right, you're a student. Organize where you're at, as a student activist, right? Because to me, they're all related. And that's the other piece is that no matter where you are, what you're doing, they're all related, and that it doesn't have to be walking down the street and a manifestation, let's say. Those things are important. But our daily lives are inherently political. Right? And so those are the those are the pieces that make the most important impact. Yeah.

Stuart Murray 8:03

Yeah. Yeah. So Kemlin, just if you look back at- you know, you mentioned that you're you were raised by a very strong mother.

Kemlin Nembhard 8:11

And a very strong father too, who was very interesting.

Stuart Murray 8:14

And a strong father. Yeah, yeah. Fair enough. Yep. Thank you for that. But you, at some point, you decided that you were going to- and you use the term feminist, which is a very well known term. At what point did you all of a sudden realize, I think, Hey, I'm- this activism, this interest that I'm involved in, you know, if there's somebody asked me to say, you know, hey, Kemlin, do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes or no? Obviously, when you said yes, what was going on in your life at that time?

Kemlin Nembhard 8:45

I think probably when I actually started using that word in reference to myself would have been when I was in high school. So I really appreciate the time that I got to grow up in many ways, in that things feel really heavy nowadays, I find, and I can only imagine what it's like for young people nowadays. And I think when I was growing up, there were lots of issues that felt heavy, like at that point, people were really afraid of nuclear war, right? And things like that. But there was just more space, I think that was- felt less ominous. Right? And so I was really active in the community and a variety of different things. I was in the peace movement, and, and it all to me, made sense that and when I looked at sort of, you know, what was going on around me and as a woman, as a young woman, my place in that, right? Seemed to me that the feminist movement was a really important part for me to be a part of, right? And at that time, too, if you think about what was going on, abortion didn't become illegal until I was just out of high school. So when I was in university, my first few years in university. But those were all things that we were talking about at that point, right? Like, those were all things that we were really actively fighting for, here in Canada, here in- in Winnipeg. Right? And so yeah, it was- just made sense to me.

Stuart Murray 10:19

Right, no, no, listen, I- what I- what I love about it is- is I mean, you're- you're giving kind of this life journey narrative and does culminate in what you've been interested in and finding yourself now, as the executive director of the women's health clinic. So there's kind of a natural transition for you. So on that basis, Kemlin, let me just give you a survey that I did some research on, which I know you're going to know a lot about, but I want to talk about this and get your reaction to it because it is about period poverty. But this is the part- and I'm going to say it twice, because it took me a while to sort of say- are you sure this as Canada? But the quote or research came out and said that one in four Canadian women are forced to choose between buying meals and period products. That's in a survey. And I had to go back and I said, Okay, well, where's that again? One in four Canadian women, forced to choose between buying meals and period products. I gotta tell you, Kemlin, that just blew my mind. And so let's talk about that. Let's talk about, why is that? And what sorts of things is the women's health clinic? And what are you doing leading that conversation, to try to ensure that that shocking result doesn't become more- I'm not sure of the right word, but it should be zero of for Canadian women. Make- have to make that choice.

Kemlin Nembhard 11:44

You know, I think ultimately, when I was thinking about- about talking to you today, I kind of put some notes down and kind of was trying to think about putting stuff together and I- and what- what always comes back to me in doing this work- And when I say work, I mean, the work that I do at the Women's Health Clinic. And the work that we do as a clinic- is ultimately this is a symptom of the fact that our system of health generally devalues women, right. And people who identify as women, and our current health system, like when we look at health education, you know, so going to med school and the research, it is still to this day in the 21st century, based on men. So the basis of normal, right, is on men and on straight like cis men, to be exact, right? And that- So if you look at the amount of research that's done on women, whether it's on something as simple as like heart disease, or things like ovarian cancer, it's- it's much less for women than it is for things that- that are specific to men. Heart disease is a good example, the majority of of the research is done on men, but it has different outcomes and shows up differently in women. Right? And so to me, this is a symptom of that. Not only are women I think devalued, generally in society, but that- that devaluation is reflected in our medical system, and the- the education of our medical system, the research of our medical system, how our medical system is funded, like all the way across, right? And so that is fundamentally why this is this way. And until we actually address that, we're not going to be able to address things like this fully. Right?

Stuart Murray 13:44

Sure. So- So Kemlin, let me ask you, how then, and again, I'm not trying to be simplistic here, because it's it's always the, you know, when you talk about systems, you know, there's a lot of complexity that comes with systems, whether it's racism, or all those elements. And let's talk about the issue as we're, we're- talking about with a period poverty, there's lots of women that are starting to find themselves- I mean, you know, as men, we've had a pretty good run, right? Women are starting to find themselves, as they should, into positions of authority and positions of responsibility and positions of being able to sort of lead discussions, as you are doing. How would you see that process becoming much more everyday conversation? For example, it just strikes me, and again, I've just done the research and I should tell you that I'm married and I have two children, two daughters. And- and I would just seem to me that the issue of- and correct me if I use the right or wrong word here- when you talk about menstrual products, I mean, some people talk about feminine hygiene, some people talk about hygiene products, I don't know if there's a specific word or- that- that should be used or shouldn't be used.

Kemlin Nembhard 14:50

Any one.

Stuart Murray 14:51

Okay, I just want to make sure that I'm using the right language, but I mean, you know, those products should be as available as toilet paper in- in public washrooms. How is it that we're not there? And I guess I'm just saying, you live it, you fight the fight from an activist standpoint, what more could be done? I mean, what more can we do to move this process forward? Is it- Is it politics? Is it business? I mean, from your perspective, what would you advise anybody listening to this program to say, Okay, you want to make a difference? You want to make sure that period poverty is- is ended? Here's one thing, two things, three things that you should do.

Kemlin Nembhard 15:28

Yeah, and I think every level counts. One of the big ones, I think, though, is I think government actually, at every level has a really important role to play from a leadership perspective. And when I say that, I mean, both in terms of funding things- So really good example is, you know, I know we have a new provincial government coming in. And one of the things they ran on was making, you know, the promise around birth control. Right? And so having free birth control now, across the province, that's a significant impact of just for us as an agency. We're the only agency now, health agency, that gives out free birth control, and that's everything from pills, you know, IUDs, all sorts of things, right? For people, we spend between $150 and $175,000 a year, that isn't- that we don't get funding for, to provide free access to birth control to people that come- come into our clinics.

Stuart Murray 16:32

Kemlin, let me just ask you for one second, you didn't mention but I'm just asking the question. Do you provide condoms as well?

Kemlin Nembhard 16:37


Stuart Murray 16:38


Kemlin Nembhard 16:38

But condoms are much eas- they're much cheaper. And they are also much more readily available, right? Like you can get, like, free condoms are fairly readily available. A lot of agencies have those out. But very few agencies actually give birth control, right? And if they do, you're lucky if you can get like, one- one month. Right? And so that, to me, that sort of leadership is what we need for this from government, because I think government can help move the conversation forward, both in terms of what they say, and then what they're supporting. They're investing in. And so I think that is really important. I think, also from government perspective, you know, we're looking at programs, right, like, I think this sort of stuff needs to be taught in schools, it also needs to be available in schools, right? So- So that's another form of government when you're looking at school boards, right? And in terms of what they are, what they're making sure is on their, you know, on the curriculum, but also in bathrooms, right, at- in high schools, right? And then I think in terms of government leadership, that can also then help push private sector to make sure that they also have things in bathrooms, whether it's a law office or a bar, right, to make sure that there are products just in their bathroom. I really want to stress the importance that- that government plays, can play, in stuff like that. And I think every level of government can do that. In terms of individuals, I mean, I think just making your voice heard. I don't think we should ever underestimate the impact that individuals can have on the stores that they shop from, right, the restaurants that they go to, and the governments that are in power, like I think that we often forget the power that we have as individuals to make a difference in the world. And I think it's just talking to our representatives, going to the different stores that you shop at right, going to the different restaurants and talking to them about it. I also think it's important that we talk to each other. That's the other- that's the other big piece, right? Is that we should have conversations like this at the dinner table, or maybe not at the dinner table. But you know...

Stuart Murray 18:59

I hear you.

Kemlin Nembhard 19:00

Yeah. Because ultimately, that is where you can make the best difference, right, is that- if we're all well educated on it, like I think it's great. You went and researched it, and you found all of this information that I'm sure most people would not have any clue about it. Right? And so, you know, reading isn't necessarily- not everyone's gonna go do that. But I think we all talk to each other.

Stuart Murray 19:27


Kemlin Nembhard 19:27

Right? And that is often the best way to get information disseminated, is just having conversations with each other and- and talking about it.

Stuart Murray 19:37

Yeah. Because I know that one point, you know, there was a big conversation about having defibrillators available, like in shopping malls and different things. And of course, you look at it and say, you know, once you understand what it's for it, you could look at it and sort of say, How come it's taken us so long to get this done? And then you look at, you know, sort of issues of products for women, and you sort of think, how is it that that just doesn't follow through on the same conversation, and on a must have? And so, you know, one of the questions I just wanted to get your thoughts on, Kemlin, was, what are some of the cost barriers in affording menstrual products?

Kemlin Nembhard 20:09

Well, I think you touched on them in that stat that you said, right, it just costs a lot of money. Like, if you look at- the average person spends about, you know, we'll use about 20 tampons per cycle, and that a box of different brands sell like, like 38 tampons for $11, right? If your average is- is 20, you won't get you through two cycles, right? And while $11 doesn't seem like a lot, that is a lot, when you don't have a lot of money. And having to make those choices can be really difficult for people. I think the other thing we really need to talk about nowadays, especially and I know, is just- just some basic things that- so not just about the cost, but about accessibility to things like bathrooms, right? Accessibility to the privacy to be able to take care of those things. And we have three locations as an agency, two of our locations are downtown. And right now, if you are downtown, and you are either precariously housed or unhoused, we're one of the only places you can actually come in to and use the bathroom. Like right now, people are being shut out of Portage Place, and City Place, and you need ID to get into the library. Those are public places that people used to go just use the washroom. And now, those aren't really readily available for people, that not even just the cost, right? Just in terms of some basic, basic things that people need. If you don't have access to a bathroom, and you don't have access to let's say, water, right? And you don't have access to privacy. Where are you even going to be able to do that? Right? Like, so- There's some basic things that I think we also need to talk about just besides the cost. Yeah.

Stuart Murray 20:31

Yeah, no, and I simply was amazed when I read that stat. And you look at some of the, you know, the cost barriers, and somebody explained to me, if you have- without getting into the whole pronoun and gender identification in this conversation, Kemlin, but you have a man, single man, say, for example, living in an apartment, he's got a job. And beside him is a single woman living in apartment who also has a job. At one point, in each month, there is an expense that the woman has, the man doesn't have, I mean, presumably, the woman probably is not being paid the same amount as the man to begin with. So, you know, you look at some of these issues. And it's just astonishing that here we are in 2023. And we continue to explore, how do we solve this problem? The reason that I'm so delighted to have you and your voice representing, you know, Women's Health Clinic on this on this podcast, is that, you know, we need to start moving this conversation forward. Without I mean, anybody putting up their hand and saying, Well, you know, I've got an issue, what issue could you possibly have, other than to say, what's taken us so long?

Kemlin Nembhard 23:18

I would completely agree. And I think, you know, I think part of it, too, is about the conversations that we have, I would say, politically, but from a small p perspective, because I think we talk a lot about- we talk about things as not having enough of. Usually not having enough- not enough resources to be able to invest in things. And I, personally, I think that's a bit of a fallacy given that we're one of the richest countries in the world. It is rather about priorities. And so something as simple as this, which doesn't have to cost very much, to me is ultimately about priorities. Right? And that we need to prioritize things like this, as opposed to just saying we cannot, right, because ultimately, for me, I think that's partially what it's about.

Stuart Murray 24:14

Well, you know, one of the things that I'd love to get your thoughts on, because I just came across this as one of the opportunities, was reusable menstrual products. Is that something that is becoming more and more available? Or are people learning more about it? Just, you know, share what is happening on on that part of the project.

Kemlin Nembhard 24:34

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, things like that have been available for, I would say, at least 20-30 years. Like they're- so it's definitely built up over time. And there's a variety of different- different products, like- it's super important, I think, because you know, when we talk about waste disposal, and how wasteful and- a lot of menstrual products are, right, because they're- they don't degrade in the landfill in lots of cases, you know, and so in terms of- I think the reusable is super important. Unfortunately, it doesn't necessarily work for everybody. So some of the products either don't work for- you know, they just may not be that comfortable using them, or you also may not have the facility to be able- like if you need to change, right, where you're going to put it, like that sort of thing. Like all those sorts of things. And then it also would depend on how- what your cycle is like, really, there's so there's lots of complications with it. But I think it's definitely something that could use more investment. But there has been a lot of growth, I would say, over the last 30 years in, in that, in itself, like when I just look at the amount of things that are there. Yeah.

Stuart Murray 25:44

So Kemlin, you know, let me just sort of ask you this question. So if I'm talking to some people and sort of say, well, did I ever have a very interesting conversation with the executive director of the women's health clinic, Kemlin Nembhard, and we'd got talking about reusable menstrual products. And they would sort of say, well, what do you mean by that? So let me just dive in for a second. Tell me specifically, what products are reusable? How does that work? Because I- I really don't have an understanding. And I'd like to be able to sort of share that with somebody who asked me the question.

Kemlin Nembhard 26:18

Yeah, because some some people use pads, some people use tampons, some people use a mixture of both. And that's strictly often just about comfort or- and you know, other things, right? So there are things like, instead of using tampons, you can use something- there are different things that are like, like cups, basically, that you can use. So you can just empty them out, right, and wash them out and then use them again, there's those. And then you can also- often things like underwear, that have either reusable, like, washable pieces that you can put in and take out, right, or underwear that has something just sewn in it that has a certain level of absorbency that you can again, just wash, I would say those would be kind of all of what you would sort of see. And- and I would say that, you know, there's probably in all of those cases, they would probably at least suit, you know, a certain percentage of people who menstruate. Right? But there are sometimes other factors. In both cases, you need to have access to clean water, both in terms of if you have to change, if- you know, that sort of thing. Or- and or when you're- you- to wash products out, right? So- because they're not disposable, they're also based on, I would say, a fairly average flow, which may not necessarily work for everyone. Because if you have a particularly heavy flow, like that may not work, right? So- and then there's also just comfort level, right? So in some cases, people may not feel that comfortable- like, you know, may not feel comfortable using a tampon, so you would just- and not even just physically, but just may not feel comfortable doing it. So that would not be something they'd be interested in. I think the other piece of that, too, is that I think there's something to be said with- And I think you touched on this at the beginning of the podcast, was around the sort of cultural taboo-ness of menstruating. Right? And that has an impact on people who identify as men, but it also has an impact on people who identify as women, right? In terms of how people feel comfortable with their own bodies. As someone who menstruates, and being able to just throw away any evidence of that may feel more comfortable with somebody that's having an issue with that, as opposed to if you're very comfortable with that. It can be for a number of different reasons. But I think like that- so anyways, that also has an impact on anything how comfortable people may be with using products like that. So, you know, as with everything, people are complicated, there's lots of different reasons.

Stuart Murray 29:13

No, listen, Kemlin, for sure. I mean, look at- let me just put it- put it in perspective for a second. So I was raised in a small community town in Saskatchewan. My mother was a pharmacist. So you know, I worked in the drugstore. And at that time, the most feminine products that I was even made aware of, I didn't even understand what it was when I was a, you know, 8, 9, 10, 12 year old kid working with my mother and the drugstore was a brand name pad called Kotex. Well, you know, that was- at that time, my mother would wrap it up in- I'm gonna say brown paper, wasn't really brown paper, but it was wrapped up so you couldn't see it. But you could put it on the shelf and it was wrapped up. And like, I kept saying to my mom, like why are we wrapping this product up and putting it out like nobody can know what it is. And she said, Well, it's a woman's product. And women know that. And if they come in we, you know, we sell it to- we do that. So at that stage, it's like, well, here's something, but kind of the stigma was, you know, we don't really talk about it, we don't really let people know. And so you know, when you look at that, I mean, you fast forward that today, Kemlin, and you think about issues around the environment, you know, some of these menstrual products are not good for the environment. I again, I just look at this and say, how do we engage the environmentalists to sort of talk about the importance of it, to drive it back to whether it's a reusable conversation, or an understanding more of why these products that women require? I mean, they should be just made available. And I guess there's so many- as you say, it's complicated. There's lots of parts to it. But really, if you peel back the onion, part of it is just to say, we're just putting blinders on to something that is just so common sense that it's almost astonishing to say, You got to be kidding me, we're not doing this. And I'm saying that as a man talking to you, Kemlin, who are- you know, you're driving this conversation in the best way you possibly can. So, you know, if you hear a little bit of frustration in my voice, I can't imagine how you feel.

Kemlin Nembhard 31:22

Yeah. And like I said, I think for me a lot of the frustration is- is because like I said, it's part of this larger problem, right, which- we- like in our work at the clinic, we see all the time. So this particular issue for me, is the product of a whole bunch of things that have an impact on a lot of the work that we do at the clinic, right, so whether, you know, whether it's about access to abortion care, or access to birth control, or access to period products, to me, they are often a symptom of a much broader problem. And so, yeah, and I think exactly what you were talking about, that is also the symptom of that same issue, this idea that women's bodies are not normal, that women's bodies are unclean, that we can't talk about women's bodies, like, it's fine to talk about male bodies, like if you- even in the sort of public, sort of colloquial, you know, like, people talk about male bodies a lot more, and different things about male bodies, but talking about women's bodies- except often, in a derogatory way- is even now, which I- I find, it's crazy that we're in the 21st century, you know, a quarter of the way through, basically, and it's still an issue. And so, but that fact, is still true. And, to me, it's also why we got to start talking about these things in school, right, we need to actually talk about these things. So that kids are comfortable talking about it, so that they're comfortable with their bodies. Right, because that's ultimately what it is, is that they need to be comfortable with their bodies, they need to be comfortable with what's happening in their bodies, like, you know, when I think of a good example is similar with me, my growing up, and these changes are happening in your body. And there's no way my dad would have talked to me about it. Right? And even with my mom, she would talk to me about it, but it's kind of on hush hush, right? And so- and really, the human body is- is an incredible machine that we are so blessed to have. Right? And we should be just counting our blessings in every different way about the amazing things that that our bodies do, regardless of our gender. And so we should be able to celebrate that. And we also should be able to learn about it from a very early age, right, and be able to talk openly about it.

Stuart Murray 34:03

Yeah. So- so Kemlin, have you had any experience talking with educators, just say here in the province of Manitoba, around how to introduce that into the curriculum? Has that conversation taken place? Or in fact, if it has, maybe it's moved forward, but I'm just not aware of it. So is there something taking place at that level?

Kemlin Nembhard 34:22

Period poverty, not so much, but certainly, we actually do stuff in schools, like so as an agency, we have health educators that do things in schools and do health- like actual health education. There are lots of community agencies that do that. And you know, as we saw in this last election, it became a hot topic in terms of what's talked about in school. You know, obviously, I think I'm a firm believer that we should be talking about all of these things in school from an early age, in an open and honest way. Because as people grow- so that they can make decisions, like informed decisions, regardless of whether you're young or old, right? The more information you have, the better decisions you can make as you get older. And that starts from an early age. And I think the other thing is, children are- are maturing a lot earlier now than they used to, let's say, even- you know, I'm- I'm in my mid 50s. And so even when I was younger, I think kids reach maturity earlier now than they used to. And so they need to have these conversations earlier, right? They need to know what's going on in their bodies, so that they can be proud of themselves, not feel embarrassed about what's happening to them, and feel comfortable asking questions, and then making decisions as they're going forward. So I'm a firm believer that those things should be in school as part of the curriculum. And so, you know, it is to a certain extent already, but I don't think there'll be- you'd get an argument from me that we should have more.

Stuart Murray 35:59

Got it. Okay. Yeah, no, for sure. Yeah. And I know you're working on it. So for me, I'm just learning some of the things that you're doing, which is amazing, Kemlin, both for you as the executive director, but also from the perspective of what the Women's Health Clinic is doing. One of the things I was going to ask is, you know, we talked a lot about some of the challenges, how come this isn't being done? How come that's not being done? Let's kind of turn it for a second and say, from your perspective of what you've seen, as somebody who is a feminist, somebody who has been advocating for women's issues pretty much all of your life, your young life, I should tell you. Kemlin tell me- I could get in trouble for saying that. Sorry about that. But anyway, but- but Kemlin tell me, what's some of the things you've seen that have been positive? Some of the growth you've seen, some of the good information that's come out, some of the more, you know, when you look at it, and sort of say, yeah, today was a good day, because...

Kemlin Nembhard 36:47

There- you know, and I'm not generally a negative person, I would say, right, and I- I think that there are lots of things to be happy about and be proud of, right? And I think a perfect example would be, we look at access to abortion in Canada, and as an agency, when the things that started happening in the US around Roe versus Wade, the community came out, like, incredibly strong in terms of supporting access to abortion in Canada, supporting us as an agency, as you know, an abortion provider, like to the point that people would literally come into our office and hand over $700 donation because they're like, access to abortion is- and men and women.

Stuart Murray 37:40


Kemlin Nembhard 37:41

Access to abortion is so important. Right? And that, to me, is so important for people to know. And also so important for people to remember that we cannot remain silent on it. So- because it's not just about money, money is super important, obviously, to make sure that we can- we can continue to provide access for people. But it's also- like I was saying earlier, it's also about talking about it at our dinner tables, talking about it, you know, when we're out for drinks with friends, talking about it with our elected officials, about why these things are so important. Right? That would be a really positive thing for me. I think that's happened over the last little while, right, is- because there has been such a strong outpouring of support, and especially when you compare with- with the news coming out of the US in particular, like it's like, wow, it's like night and day.

Stuart Murray 38:40

Yeah. I mean, there's always been- comments have been made that maybe if there's a wall to be built, maybe it should be at the 49th parallel versus, right? So that's conversation for another day, Kemlin. Kemlin, one of the things that I did want to share though, because again, I- for me, I have done a podcast with Winnipeg Harvest, it's now Harvest Manitoba, they changed their name, but I did not realize that you can donate menstruation products to most food banks.

Kemlin Nembhard 39:09


Stuart Murray 39:09

And I mean, it's not something that has been, you know, widely broadcast, or have I just missed it, or..?

Kemlin Nembhard 39:16

Well, I think, you know, it's one of the things a lot of agencies ask for. So, you know, it's certainly something that we would use, right, certainly something that any women's health- any women's organization would use. Anybody that works with people who are unhoused or precariously housed would use, as well as places like food banks, right? It's- because it's one of the things you buy in your grocery store.

Stuart Murray 39:40

It should just be exactly that. I mean, you mean we need to eat. women menstruate, they need menstrual products, like why is that not more connected?

Kemlin Nembhard 39:49

And it's, they're expensive, right? It's quite as expensive. So that's the other piece, right? Is that, you know, if you're looking at how much you're going to pay for that versus, you know, getting some milk and eggs or whatever, you know, whatever you eat, right? Like, it's- it's quite a bit.

Stuart Murray 40:06

Yeah, I mean, I love the fact that, you know, I've been trained just to sort of even- sort of repeat the mantra that Winnipeg Harvest again, always saying that it's changed to Manitoba Harvest now. But when they started a lot of the big events they went to, there was always a comment to be made, you know, put a tin in the bin. And you know, that just makes sense to me, I understand. I mean, it could be a tin of soup, a tin of beans, whatever it may be. But it would be interesting to see if there was a way to integrate- And again, part of it is because of this kind of the stigma, it's saying, Did you say something about putting menstrual products? You get into that, and people all of a sudden clam up and they're not even sure. I mean, I'm just, you know, looking at it and trying to explore in my own mind to say, somebody said to me, okay, you know, Mr. Smarty, what would you do if you were in charge of changing the slogan from tin to a bin? I don't have that answer. But what I do know is that I think if people were made aware more, at least something that I'm going to talk about with with people that I know, particularly, you know, the time of Christmas, when there's people looking to donate, and people are looking to sort of be generous in that spirit of generosity, is to say that, Did you know? Because sometimes people sort of say, gee, we're not sure what we should be donating to. They don't have to, but if they're made aware of it, maybe it's something they would say, Wow, okay, let's- let's do that. I mean, that's- that's important.

Kemlin Nembhard 41:23

I love that idea. And, you know, it's really funny you should mention it, because I think exactly talking about it, like- like that is so important. And it's one of the things that people have reflected back to me since I've been in this role at the Women's Health Clinic is, you know, I've done a lot of different media, and especially, you know, then a lot of stuff around- obviously around Roe versus Wade falling, then abortion access, but just generally speaking, done a lot of work with with media and stuff. And people have actually commented to me that I talk about abortions just all the time, right? It's one of the things that we do, it's not the only thing we do. We do- We provide birthing services at the birthing center down on St. Mary's, we provide pregnancy counseling, and birth control counseling, and abortions and couns- regular counseling, and all sorts of stuff. But abortion is another example where people- it's like, they have to talk about it under a hush. So- but I think, the more you talk about it, so the more that you just use the words, right, the more comfortable people become talking about it, and it helps to normalize it. And so I think that's a- your idea is a great idea, right? Because then it just does become more normal. It doesn't seem like such a taboo anymore, because people are comfortable talking about it. People are comfortable hearing about it.

Stuart Murray 42:53

Right. So maybe we could try this one on for size. Let's end period poverty, period.

Kemlin Nembhard 42:59

Oh, I like that.

Stuart Murray 43:02

Yeah, anyway, just having some fun.

Kemlin Nembhard 43:04

I was just thinking, so are you going to, like, register that? Or can we maybe use it?

Stuart Murray 43:09

No, no, listen, please, Kemlin, swing. I'd love it if you did it. I mean, I- just to me, again, it's just one of those things that- I mean, it's such a serious part of of this conversation, but it needs to be solved. And we need to move on. Like there's lots of other challenges. But having said that, I mean, this is a huge challenge, you know, I come back to that- that stat about one in four Canadian women. Blows my mind. It really does. So listen, Kemlin, this podcast, of course, is dropping on the Thursday. So Wednesday, the day before this podcast drops, is the International Day of the Girl. If you had one message that you could have the biggest megaphone to shout from the rooftops at Portage and Main to people about the International Day of the Girl, but tying it in, if you can, into period poverty. What might that message be?

Kemlin Nembhard 44:03

Oh, my gosh, that's a tall order.

Stuart Murray 44:07

Well you're standing on a tall building

Kemlin Nembhard 44:11

One message. Well, you know, I liked your slogan, actually. Let's end period poverty. Period.

Stuart Murray 44:19

Right. Yeah.

Kemlin Nembhard 44:20

You know, and yeah. Yeah, I think that would be a good one.

Stuart Murray 44:25

Okay. Well, I mean, you know, it's- it's- it's yours. And I'm so delighted to have this conversation with you. Because, you know, when you sort of said, I'm not really a negative person, I mean, I just haven't met you other than through this conversation. You clearly are not. You are- look like a joyful person full of life, full of energy, full of, you know, vigor. And, and obviously somebody who is very passionate about women's issues, among other things community for sure. So, again, you're one of these people that makes this such a great community for us to call home, with a lot of work to be done. On- on the file, Kemlin. But thank you so much for for spending some time with me. I love the conversation, I love learning from you, I always enjoy this opportunity. Before we close off or hit the- hit the off ramp as some people say, I'll leave the last word to you as we think about International Day of the Girl. And- and you as a champion for so many issues. I'll leave the last word for you. And then we'll- we'll say goodbye.

Kemlin Nembhard 45:25

Okay, I guess first I'd just like to say thank you so much. I look forward to this meeting in person sometime. Thank you so much for having me on and, and for talking about this really important topic. Talking about it, I think, is probably the most important thing that we can do. Talking about issues generally. Right? Is having the conversation, and I really mean conversation, not- not having a debate, not having- and really listening to each other and hearing each other, I think is is super important. And so thank you so much for having me on. This has been a great conversation. Yeah, I would just like to say, you know, make sure that we all go out and honor all the girls and women and- in our lives, right? And if you identify as a woman, as a- as a girl, honor yourself, too. Because before we should ask anybody to do it for us, we should do it for ourselves. And so just take that time to do that. So...

Stuart Murray 46:25

Awesome. Awesome. Kemlin Nembhard, thank you so much.

Kemlin Nembhard 46:31

Thank you. Have a great afternoon. Take care.

Matt Cundill 46:35

Thanks for listening to Humans On Rights. A transcript of this episode is available by clicking the link in the show notes of this episode. Humans On Rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray. Social media marketing by Buffy Davey. Music by Doug Edmund. For more, go to

Tara Sands (Voiceover) 46:55

Produced and distributed by the Sound Off Media Company.


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