A motion passed by a board of education in British Columbia to provide students with free menstrual products has made them the first district in Canada to do so, Vancouver Sun reported.
The New Westminster school board has voted to install coin-free dispensers in girls’ and gender-inclusive washrooms in all of their schools. The installation will cost about $10,000, with an annual stocking fee of roughly $7,000.
Vancouver activist Selina Tribe gave a presentation at the school board meeting with United Way representatives on Feb. 26.
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“We know that girls, if they can’t manage their periods properly, they will remove themselves from activities, from extracurricular or athletic activities, also social activities, and in the worst case, they will actually miss school if they cannot manage their period,” Tribe told the Vancouver Sun.
One in three Canadian women under 25 has struggled to afford menstrual products, according to a Plan International Canada report released earlier this year. The study suggests that period poverty in Canada is a significant issue.
At the meeting last week, the board also agreed to back the United Way’s Period Promise campaign, which mobilizes locals to collect donated menstrual products.
Period Promise estimates that 1 in 7 girls in Canada misses school due to inadequate period protection or because of stigma. They expect this number is higher for transgender children, as they have a harder time accessing the products they need, according to the Vancouver Sun.
The issue of period poverty is rarely brought up in school board meetings.
“I think that’s a little bit of a reflection of some of the stigma that can be around having conversations about periods and menstruation, and it was a common-sense step for the board to take,” Mark Gifford, New Westminster school board chairman, told the Vancouver Sun.
It is predicted that 50.4% of the Canadian population (19,356 people) will be female by 2021, which means that period poverty has the potential to affect more than half the country and must be addressed as part of an overall poverty reduction plan.
The trustees’ next move will be to have the BC School Trustees Association ask that the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance provide funding for the installation of free product dispensers for bathrooms in every school in BC.