Hamilton students will soon have access to free period products in schools
Published October 8, 2021 at 12:32 pm
Students in Hamilton and across Ontario will soon have access to free menstrual products in schools.
On Friday (Oct. 8), the province, in partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart, announced that it will distribute free menstrual products in schools across the province.
Six million free menstrual products per year will be provided to school boards, which will then decide how they get distributed within their local schools.
Shoppers Drug Mart is donating all of the pads — tampons are not part of the program, said Education Minister Stephen Lecce when announcing the program
“Menstrual products are, of course, a necessity, not a luxury,” he said Friday.
“For women and girls, ensuring that they have access to these products is key for their health and successful participation within the school. But the reality is that some students cannot afford or access them, and this creates barriers.”
This will be a welcome announcement to Hamilton’s public school board which, earlier this year, approved a motion to provide free menstrual products in the washrooms of all Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) schools in a similar manner to other sanitation products.
At the time, the board was prepared to absorb the cost of such a program and even, several weeks later, issued an open letter to Lecce, which was signed by board chair Dawn Danko, calling on the province to help fund the ‘Free the Flow’ program that had gained traction in Toronto schools and elsewhere.
“Period poverty is a serious equity issue affecting low-income people who menstruate in Canada and around the world,” the letter said.
“Readily providing these products in washrooms both removes barriers faced by students and ensures students have access to products that are essential to menstrual health, comfort and participation in school and society.”
Back in March 2020, before the pandemic closed schools, a one-time donation facilitated by the United Way of Hamilton and Halton, the HWDSB was able to provide menstrual products to 10 local public schools in lower-income areas in March 2020.
“A one-time donation is not enough to create long-lasting, equitable change, and a significant investment in infrastructure for product distribution is still required,” the HWDSB letter said.
Details about the province’s new program and how it will roll out in Hamilton schools are yet to be determined, but Friday’s announcement is seen as a step in the right direction by many.
Keith Baybaylon, president of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, says menstrual equity is a human rights issue and the announcement will help students feel more included in the community.
“No student should have to worry about whether or not they have access to products,” he said.
“They already have so much on their plates and the lack of access should not be a burden on them.”
The NDP applauded the announcement but said it should have come earlier and should have included tampons and menstrual cups.
— with a file from The Canadian Pressinsauga's Editorial Standards and Policies