It's the season of giving but there is a growing (and often overlooked) need for feminine products at shelters across the city. Items such as tampons, pads, liners, etc are often not easily accessible  to Toronto's female homeless population. That's where Project Lady Parts comes in-a holiday drive that is collecting these essential items for Women's Habitat, an organization dedicated to helping homeless women. These women come from all walks of life, but many are coming from abusive and dangerous situations.

We sat down with Carmella Dela Cruz, E-Commerce + Marketing Coordinator at Pure + Simple, who’s also one of the ladies behind Project Lady Parts, to learn more about the campaign.


What is Women’s Habitat? What do they provide for women and families in need in the GTA?


Women’s Habitat is an organization that provides shelter and support services to women and their children who are experiencing or at risk of experiencing violence. The shelter opened in 1978 and added an Outreach Centre in 2006 to provide support services to women and children in the community.

Services offered at the Women’s Habitat Outreach Centre include individual and group counselling, transition and support services, housing assistance, parenting support and more. They also offer youth services, such as S.T.A.R (Striving Towards Amazing Results) which strives to help children 9-12 help build safe and healthy relationships, through activities on how to build self-esteem, identify bullies and make new friends.

In addition to these services, Women’s Habitat also offers learning resources, such as how to identify signs of abuse and other community resources (ex. employment services, housing assistance, etc.)


How did you get involved with supporting Women’s Habitat through the Project Lady Parts Holiday Drive? Is this your first time helming an initiative for this charity?

I knew that I wanted to start a holiday drive collecting feminine hygiene products and was looking for shelters in my community that I wanted to work with. I came across the Women’s Habitat website and was instantly drawn into their inclusive and transparent messaging. It was important for me to find an organization that was really making a difference in their community and I loved the resources, services and programs being offered at the Women’s Habitat. I’ve previously volunteered at a shelter for women escaping abusive situations, so there was also that connection to this particular organization.  

Yes, this is my first time helming an initiative for any charity! I knew that I had the passion and skills to execute this type of initiative, so I figured I might as well use my digital marketing skills for good, and that’s how Project Lady Parts was born.


What products are they in need of?

They are always in need of non-perishable food items, toiletries, diapers and of course, feminine hygiene products! This time of year, they are especially looking for gifts for the families at the shelter, and the women and children who access their Outreach Centre. You can see the list of products to donate here.


Why is it so important for places like Women’s Habitat to receive these items?  

Organizations like Women’s Habitat are primarily funded through government grants and fundraising. Further, poverty rates in the GTA are increasing. According to Daily Shelter Census Toronto, as of Nov 24 2016, women's shelters are at 99% capacity, while family shelters are at 100% capacity. It's obvious there are not enough resources to go around. Feminine hygiene products are some of the most needed, but often least remembered products. Ladies, we all know how bummy periods can be. Just imagine having to manage your period while lacking the basic necessities.


How can you donate?

        - Donate products - Tampons, pads and liners… we want ‘em all!
        - Donate funds - Donate money to our GoFundMe (100% of which will be used to buy more feminine products) or you can

          also donate directly to Women's Habitat.
        - Donate time - Volunteer your time in whichever way you can.
        - Start your own #ProjectLadyParts drive - Spread the word and take action within your community.

Visit the Project Lady Parts Donate page to learn more!


So, you’re a dude and this is a bit of a squeamish topic. What other ways can you contribute?

Donating funds and services are great ways to get started with the organization. Everyone is welcome to donate to our GoFundMe page or directly to Women’s Habitat.

Although some guys may find this topic a little squeamish, they need to understand that this is a reality for women EVERYWHERE. I encourage them to lean into their initial discomfort and get involved with this worthwhile cause. I can assure them that buying a box of tampons or pads will not result in them getting their man cards revoked ;)


The Project Lady Parts Holiday Drive ends on the the 30th, for those who want to continue giving what are their options?

Our Holiday Tampon Drive may end on the 26th, but the need for community support does not end there! I encourage people to contact us if they want to start their own #ProjectLadyParts drive for any of the items needed by the shelter on a regular basis. You’ve got your own network of good-hearted people, so spread the word!

Women’s Habitat is always looking for volunteers to help with anything from event planning, child-minding and reception. Say you’ve got an interest in event planning or a background business admin-- organizations such as Women’s Habitat are the perfect places to use your skills to do some good! Learn more about volunteer opportunities here.


What would be your ideal goal for this drive?

My ideal goal for this drive is to draw attention to how the female experience of homelessness has unique challenges, such as having to manage their periods while lacking the basic necessities. The contributing factors to homelessness, such as domestic violence, also disproportionately affect women more than men. These are realities I’d like to bring to light.

In more quantitative terms, the people who have generously donated products have already surpassed my expectations! I’m also happy to say that we’re SO CLOSE to the halfway mark of our donation goal of $500. I’m hoping we can reach that in the next week.


Do you have any other charity projects in the works?

Yes, we’re currently exploring various opportunities to expand Project Lady Parts beyond the holiday season. Stay tuned for what’s to come!


CARMELLA DELA CRUZ

Carmella Dela Cruz is the current E-Commerce + Marketing Coordinator at Pure + Simple, with a passion for digital marketing and giving back to her community. A recent graduate of Humber's Digital Business Management (BCom) program, Carmella strives to develop her digital marketing skills through various web development, e-commerce and branding projects. Recently, she has set her sights on leveraging her knowledge, experience and skills to bring awareness to social causes close to her heart and her community. Keep up with Carmella through her linkedin page and her personal website. 


Corporate Offices: 25 – 2700 Dufferin Street, Toronto, ON, M6B4J3