The Canadian government has proposed a plan that would make menstrual products free for about 480,000 federal workers, it announced Friday.
The government’s proposal, according to the Canadian Press, suggests adding menstrual products to the list of supplies employers are required to provide to their workers: toilet paper, soap, warm water, and something to dry hands.
In order to determine costs and products associated to this proposal, the government has launched a 60-day consultation in which stakeholders and Canadians can provide input.
“Having open and honest conversations around menstruation, and providing women and employees with the products they need, is part of our plan to ensure equality for women and support safe and healthy work environments,” Patty Hajdu, minister of employment, workforce development, and labour, said in a statement.
United Way’s Period Promise campaign estimates that 1 in 7 girls in Canada miss school due to inadequate period protection or because of stigma. A Plan International Canada report released earlier this year suggested that 1 in 3 Canadian women under 25 had struggled to afford period products.
In March, BC’s New Westminster school board voted to provide free products in girls’ and gender-inclusive washrooms in all of its schools. This was followed weeks later with an announcement that public schools in the province must provide free menstrual products in school bathrooms.
“I really feel like it’s a wave happening,” Jana Girdauska, CEO of The Period Purse, told Global Citizen. “It’s a huge thing that they’ve come forward and proposed this.”
The Period Purse is an organization that is working to reduce period poverty in Canada by providing “marginalized menstruators” with access to the products they need, while working to reduce period stigma.
Girdauska has been meeting with the Liberal government to address period poverty in Canada. She has met with Minister Maryam Monsef and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in recent months, but over the past month in particular, she feels like her information finally made it to the right place, and she cried when she found out about the announcement last week.
“It’s really overwhelming for me, the power of my voice, and one person bringing this issue up,” she said, adding that she works with volunteers, too. “It really shows great leadership.”
The proposed plan would take into account more than 1.2 million workers in federal workplaces such as banks, telecommunications, and transport workers — which would impact approximately 40% of the workers, according to the Canadian Press.
Girdauska stresses that period poverty is not a well known issue in Canada — she herself didn’t know much about it just a couple years ago — but it greatly affects the country’s ability to reach gender equality.
“The BC government really showed that strong leadership, and great support of women equity and I think it should happen in every province,” she said.