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Water & Sanitation

A Canadian Province Just Made It Mandatory for Public Schools to Provide Free Menstrual Products


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Tackling period poverty could not only impact the efforts of ahieving Global Goal 1 on ending extreme poverty as a whole, but it could also help improve women's access to sanitation, and therefore good health and gender equality. You can take action on all these issues here.

Public schools in British Columbia now have to provide free menstrual products in school bathrooms thanks to a ministerial order issued last Friday.

The order comes just weeks after BC’s New Westminster school board voted to install free dispensers in girls’ and gender-inclusive washrooms in all of their schools — an announcement made following a presentation by activists and United Way representatives for the campaign Period Promise.

Take Action: Help Girls Stay in School: Prioritize Menstrual Hygiene Management

Schools must adhere to the new requirements by the end of the year. The Ministry of Education announced $300,000 in provincial startup funding and advised that it will will work with districts to guarantee they are able to comply by the end of 2019.

"This is a common-sense step forward that is, frankly, long overdue," Education Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement. "We look forward to working with school districts and communities to make sure students get the access they need, with no stigma and no barriers."

The government also announced a $95,000 grant for the Period Promise project, which campaigns with locals to gather menstrual products.

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Period Promise estimates that 1 in 7 girls in Canada misses school due to inadequate period protection or because of stigma. And a Plan International Canada report released earlier this year indicated that 1 in 3 Canadian women under 25 has struggled to afford menstrual products.

"In my own experience, I know that many young women feel awkward asking for menstrual products at a school office, especially if there isn't an adult there with whom they feel comfortable," Rebecca Ballard, a New Westminster high school student, said at a news conference. "I believe the decision to provide this free service also symbolizes a progression towards eliminating the taboo nature of menstruation. This is something all young women go through and should never feel bad about, or ashamed."