Period UBC has rebranded to Free Periods Canada after the founder of Period Inc. was accused of anti-Black and exploitative behaviour by a menstrual justice activist.
Ileri Jaiyeoba — the founder of Code Red Collective — published a Medium post on June 22, claiming that Period Inc. Founder Nadya Okamato “exploited her intellectual labour” and the labour of other activists of colour.
Jaiyeoba writes that she and other people of colour were encouraged to give up their intellectual work and their status as a non-profit to become a chapter of the company. She also said that Period Inc. excluded the activism of people of colour by monopolizing the market.
Remember when u tried to dissolve my org & exploited my intellectual labor as well as other black women&woc? U also framed a homeless experience & dropped it once u got big. Open ur pockets from those speaking engagements & stop using this as a way to promote ur sister’s art! https://t.co/RKYTSteH78— Ìlérí-olúwá jaiyéọba (@Ileri_Jaiy14) June 4, 2020
Zeba Khan, the founder of the now-renamed Free Periods Canada shared similar struggles of feeling unheard and under-appreciated when working with Period Inc.
“We had all these ideas that we wanted to implement and we couldn’t do it ... When the article came out, we suddenly realized that we are not the only ones with complaints, and we realized that because we didn’t raise our voices, there are a lot of other people who had to go through the same thing,” Khan said to The Ubyssey.
The Medium post has been a catalyst for many menstrual justice activist groups, including the former Period UBC to re-examine its relationship with Period Inc.
“The article really started the conversation. We all knew it and had been frustrated, but this made us sit down and really assess our relationship with the national organization,” Khan said.
Khan and other menstrual justice activists have stressed the importance of community-driven work, which amplifies the voices of BIPOC folks. In its work, Free Periods Canada has distributed menstrual products throughout the Lower Mainland and reported this number to Period Inc.
On their website, Period Inc. claims to have serviced over 1,200,000 periods, a number made up of the combined number of products distributed by all its chapters. Khan said that it uses this statistic to get funding at a national level in the United States, but that the money and resources never make it down to the chapter level.
“We never received any products, we’ve never received any financial help. We have received some educational materials which we later learned wasn’t even actually their own original work,” Khan said.
Period Inc. did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Through breaking away from Period Inc. and becoming Free Periods Canada, the UBC club hopes to refocus on its community-level work while fostering inclusive collaboration with other clubs and individuals. As well, it is looking into external consulting in the hopes to modify its hiring processes and training materials to make it more inclusive and diverse. Importantly, it will continue to work to give more folks access to menstrual products.
“At the end of the day, the mission is the same, it doesn’t matter what the brand is or how you do it,” Khan said. “Our team is focusing on how we can create those collaborations and to empower people to do things on their own and our role would be to connect people with resources and training.”