2019 Period Poverty Summit
Diva Cares & Diva International
Alexis Biermann is the DivaCares Manager and Positivity Officer at B Corp-certified Diva International Inc, makers of the DivaCup.
Alexis is a passionate advocate for menstrual equity and is helping to create a world where menstruation is a fact of life and not life limiting.
Through her DivaCares role she manages and executes all aspects of the program including donations, community partnerships, pilot programs, sponsorships, and educational outreach.
Moderated by Portia Clark
Portia Clark is the host of Information Morning on CBC Radio in mainland Nova Scotia.
She grew up in the Digby area and started her career at CBC Halifax. She’s been a broadcaster for more than 20 years, in radio and television, and took the helm of Information Morning a year and a half ago. It airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio.
Kristen McCallum is Program Director with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia, a non-profit charitable organization that engages with vulnerable women and girls to foster reintegration, rehabilitation, and personal empowerment, and address the root causes of criminalization.
Kristen has experience designing programs to meet the specific needs of others, including learning disabilities and women in poverty. She has a diploma in Social Services, giving her the knowledge necessary to work with vulnerable populations and help them meet their goals.
Shannon Hardy is a social worker, educator, and sexual and reproductive wellness coach in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
For more than 12 years, Shannon has been educating on the topics of consent, trauma-informed care, and sexual and reproductive justice. She is a regular speaker on university campuses and is currently teaching Psychology of Addiction at Eastern College.
Shannon is the founder and coordinator of Abortion Support Services Atlantic, a volunteer-led group offering information, support, and funding to anyone needing an abortion in the Atlantic provinces. Shannon also offers trainings across Canada in trauma-informed abortion support.
Vanessa Walker is the Executive Director of the Cape Breton Centre for Sexual Health and the sexual health educator for the island.
Vanessa educates students; promotes safer sex in a shame free, honest, and 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive way; and provides support through her work at the CBCSH. Vanessa is an active member of her community and volunteers for several organizations including the Cape Breton Youth Project and Girl Guides of Canada.
She is also a champion for reproductive rights and bodily autonomy on the board of Pro-Choice Cape Breton. Vanessa became a certified abortion doula in 2017.
Taqdir (Taq) Kaur Bhandal is a Sikh-Punjabi, woman of colour menstrual health educator and researcher, Dalhousie alumni, and PhD candidate at UBC.
Her menstrual equity work focuses on improving menstrual health literacy using ancestral knowledge. She founded IM with Periods, an initiative to “help Kaurs and folks to track four seasons of periods and cycles. Our goals together focus on self-care, mental health, productivity, and fertility.”
Taq is deeply committed to bringing ethno-culturally diverse perspectives to the conversation happening around period poverty in Canada. She is also in the formative stages of a research project about fostering menstrual health literacy for people of South Asian, Indigenous, and African descent in HRM.
Legislation and Period Poverty
Karla MacFarlane, PC MLA for Pictou West, recently introduced Bill 126.
These proposed amendments to the Employment Support and Income Assistance Act would allow menstrual products to be considered a special need and provide additional allowances for these products for Nova Scotians on income assistance.
MacFarlane is the PC Caucus Chair and her critic responsibilities include the Department of Health and Wellness and the Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
Claudia Chender, NDP MLA for Dartmouth South, recently introduced Bill 154, which would require employers to provide menstrual products in all workplaces under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, offer free menstrual products in public washrooms, and update the language in multiple pieces of legislation from “feminine hygiene products” to “menstrual products”.
Chender is the spokesperson for Justice, Finance and Treasury Board; the Human Rights Commission; Business, Rural and Regional Economic Development; and Education and Early Childhood Development. She is also the NDP House Leader.
The Independent Country of YOU
Joan Helson has been teaching empowerment-based self-defence for almost 20 years.
She is the owner of Sisu Women’s Self Defence and has taught hundreds of self-identified women, teens and pre-teens. Her workshops are designed to educate, promote awareness, build self-esteem, and provide valuable mental and physical tools to detect, avoid, and manage harassment, threats, and violent situations.
She teaches women’s self-defence and martial arts at the East Coast Combat Hapkido Academy in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Megan McDowell is a Nova Scotia comedian and storytelling, sketch comedy, and improvisation artist.
Voted Halifax’s favourite comedian by The Coast two years in a row, McDowell’s notable credits include Second City and 22 Minutes and working with professionals like Elvira Kurt, Jen Kirkman, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, and Cathy Jones to name a few.
Caroline Burton is a multifaceted artist and creator with a passion for gender equality and education.
Caroline was born and raised in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. She is excited to bring her work as a Diva Day Educator and Creative Associate back to her home.
This summer, Caroline was a part of the Diva Day team that provided 1,000 school-aged girls with DivaCups and comprehensive workshops to ensure that no day of school will be missed due to menstruation.
Melissa MacKenzie is a Toronto-based performer, creator, activist, and educator originally from Prince Edward Island, and serves as Educator and Communications Director for Diva Day International.
This summer, Melissa was part of the Diva Day team that provided DivaCups and empowerment workshops to 1,000 young women in Kenya to ensure that no day of school is missed due to menstruation.
Cassidy Bellefontaine is the manager of Highfield Park Pharmachoice in Dartmouth.
She is recognized as the founder of the store’s Period Poverty Program, which offers free menstrual products in the community through matching public donations. She has helped many other businesses across Canada offer similar programs to the public.
Aakanksha is a grade 12 student at CEC in Truro and started the chapter last May. It is the first and only high school PERIOD. chapter in the Atlantic provinces.
So far, the group has raised $500, which will go towards buying menstrual hygiene products like pads and tampons to be donated to the Colchester Food Bank.
Lynn Lavoie is a librarian with Halifax Public Libraries, working in downtown Dartmouth at the Alderney Gate location.
She is passionate about supporting her community in connecting, learning, and growing. Alderney Gate Library patrons include adults and teens for whom poverty is a daily reality.
By making menstrual hygiene products available in washrooms, Halifax Public Libraries is helping to mitigate period poverty.
Sarah White is a Communications Specialist at United Way Halifax. She has been working and volunteering in the non-profit sector for over 10 years. Sarah joined United Way Halifax in 2011, and her efforts are focused on social media, media relations, and communicating issues related to poverty and the work that United Way does in the community.
In 2019, Sarah worked closely with her United Way teammates on Tampon Tuesday to support interviews in the media, provide facts and statistics about period poverty, and communicate donation efforts.
Corrie Melanson combines more than 20 years of facilitation experience with visual tools to facilitate breakthrough conversations that spark engaged action and learning.
She is a white settler of Dutch and Scottish background living on unceded Mi’kmaq territory. She has an undergraduate degree in international development, a Master’s in Lifelong Learning, and holds certificates in Adult Education, Facilitation, Appreciative Inquiry, Conflict Resolution, Participatory Evaluation, and Graphic Facilitation.
Corrie also co-founded Rainbow Refugees Association of Nova Scotia (RRANS) in 2011, an organization that seeks to support and privately sponsor LGBTQ+ refugees.
Summit Co-hosted by Friendly Divas and Dignity. Period.