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.
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.
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."