Sisters launch Yukon's 1st free 24/7 pantry for menstrual products

·2 min read
Co-founder Ayesha Ahmad poses with the free menstrual product pantry she started with her sister. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC - image credit)
Co-founder Ayesha Ahmad poses with the free menstrual product pantry she started with her sister. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC - image credit)

Two sisters have started a community-led initiative in Whitehorse to bring menstrual hygiene products to people who can't afford or access them.

The Yukon Period Pantry, founded by Ayesha Ahmad and her sister Abeer, had its official launch on Sept. 2.

The pantry operates on a take-what-you-need and give-what-you-can basis; and it is filled with safe, clean and free products that can be accessed 24/7.

"It's just here for anyone to come and grab them with full dignity," said Ayesha Ahmad.

Located right in front of the Yukon Aboriginal Women's Council on Black Street, the red-and-orange pantry is the first of its kind in the city.

The products in the pantry are donated by local businesses like Riverside Grocery and Solstice. Since its launch, there have been additional anonymous donations, Ahmad said.

Submitted by Ayesha Ahmad
Submitted by Ayesha Ahmad

As a full-time university student, Ahmad is taking it upon herself to restock the pantry daily as her sister is in medical school outside of the territory.

"This project is something that is really near and dear to our hearts, and we wanted to do [it] for the Yukon community members," she said.

Her family moved from Saudi Arabia to Canada when she was eight years old. She said they lived in multiple rural and low-income neighbourhoods from Ontario to Alberta before moving to the Yukon.

"We always knew individuals and community members who would benefit from free menstrual products," she said.

"In our household as well, we were a family of four women — we couldn't always afford to have good menstrual products or just have menstrual products."

'It started with a Facebook post'

The two sisters had been talking for a while about period poverty and the rising cost of menstrual products in the Yukon when they saw a post on social media last year.

Sissi De Flaviis/CBC
Sissi De Flaviis/CBC

"There was an individual who was seeking some menstrual products and there were a few others who were commenting down below who were also interested," said Ahmad.

From there, the two sisters did a call-out on social media to see who was interested in brainstorming solutions to help the community.

"We had this big Zoom call of individuals in the community and we brainstormed places where it could go and things that are important to people who might not have access," said Ahmad.

The biggest takeaways from the meeting were people wanting to access menstrual products outside of work hours in an anonymous manner.

The Yukon Period Pantry team will be hosting a community meeting soon to discuss a potential expansion to communities outside of Whitehorse.