Public schools now required to stock washrooms with free menstrual items by the end of 2019
By Bex Peterson, Editor-in-Chief
Last Friday morning, Education Minister Rob Fleming announced that going forward, free menstrual items will be provided for BC students in all public-school washrooms.
“Students should never have to miss school, extracurricular, sports, or social activities because they can’t afford or don’t have access to menstrual products,” said Fleming. “This is a common-sense step that is, frankly, long overdue.”
The provincial decision was encouraged by a United Way campaign advocating for menstrual health accessibility called Period Promise. Back in February, the campaign inspired the New Westminster school district to take the first step by promising to provide free menstrual items to students in their schools. According to the CBC, “The board said it hoped the move would inspire other districts in BC—or the provincial government—to do the same.”
Fleming stated at the news conference on Friday that according to current stats, one in seven students have been forced to miss classes due to being unable to afford menstrual items.
“They miss out on learning time,” said Fleming. “They miss out on the opportunity that other students have to do well in school.”
The government will be providing $300,000 to provincial school districts to help cover start-up costs for menstrual items. As well, the government is set to provide $95,000 to support the United Way Period Promise Research Project, which will investigate how best to support those in poverty who face financial barriers with regards to menstrual health.
New Westminster high school student Rebecca Ballard spoke on Friday at a news conference in favour of the government’s decision.
“I believe the decision to provide this free service also symbolizes a progression towards eliminating the taboo nature of menstruation,” said Ballard. “This is something all [people who menstruate] go through and should never feel bad about, or ashamed.”
The Grade 11 student was one of many Lower Mainland activists who pushed for free menstrual items in public schools, including Douglas College professor Dr. Selina Tribe. Tribe started advocating for free access to menstrual health items at her daughter’s school earlier this year, before joining forces with United Way to broaden the scope of her campaign.
“Period products are no different than toilet paper, and just as essential,” said Tribe at a New West school trustee board meeting back in February. “This decision acknowledges the reality of menstruation and reduces the stigma.”
BC is the first province in Canada to take this step.