Story idea submitted by Derek Davies, Professor and Program Coordinator, Community and Justice Services program
A student team project addressing period poverty in local Indigenous communities was shortlisted to pitch their innovation idea at The Mayor’s Innovation Challenge Showcase for the City of Kingston last Friday, March 26, along with seven other teams.
The team of four from Community and Justice Services are Mackenzie Cathcart, Emma Chatterton, Lauren Bronkhorst, and Julia Shepherd. Their idea was to create a clothing brand and company called MJLE Co. that uses proceeds from the sale of clothing to establish funds for menstrual hygiene products for those who have financial barriers to obtaining these necessities. The pitch was based on the team’s final capstone project for their Community Program Planning and Implementation Course.
According to MJLE’s project synopsis, period poverty is a reality for many in the local Indigenous community: "The need for organizations such as ours is high. Many people must use unsanitary means to control their period, which is ultimately putting them at risk for health issues. Period poverty is real here in Canada, and we want to start addressing this problem in our hometown. We want to break down barriers and end the stigma around periods and menstrual hygiene."
The team conducted extensive research on the access and cost of menstrual hygiene products in Indigenous communities. "After noting that the costs are nearly three times the price for a single box of tampons or pads than in Kingston, we knew this was going to be our mission," the synopsis explains.
The students pitched as part of the annual competition held by The City of Kingston. The Mayor’s Innovation Challenge: Student Showcase invites individuals or teams of students from Kingston's post-secondary institutions to develop innovative proposals that contribute to making Kingston a better place to live, work and play. Winners of the challenge receive seed funding toward the development of their innovations.
For the students, the research was an eye-opening reality check about poverty in Kingston. "We have learned about the struggles that many Indigenous peoples experience. This is very important to us, coming from the Community and Justice Services Program. Understanding that there are many people living in poverty, we want to make the availability of menstrual hygiene products a priority."
"Team MJLE & Co did a great job. It was a rich learning experience for them, so great for them to represent SLC, and an amazing accomplishment -- one that I am sure they will hold onto forever and one that will help them in so many ways in the future and in their career," said Derek Davies, Professor and Program Coordinator, Community and Justice Services program.