It’s time to talk about everyone’s favourite, and not awkward at all, topic…Periods!
It is a subject that is often uncomfortable, avoided and stigmatized, but the fact of the matter is, 3.73 billion people (49.556% of the world’s population), deal with menstruation for a large portion of their lives. Unfortunately, not nearly enough of those individuals’ have proper access to menstruation resources.
A Decision of Common Sense
British Columbia has become the first province in Canada to require that all schools must provide free menstrual products for students. Under a ministerial order issued this month, schools must make these products available by the end of 2019 and the ruling comes with $300,000 in provincial start-up funding.
The education ministry will be working directly with school districts in the next few months to make sure that they have the funding necessary to meet the new requirements. In February, the school district of New Westminster passed a motion to provide free menstrual products in all their schools, stating that they hoped this move would help motivate other districts in British Columbia – or the government of the province itself – to follow in suit.
The initiative taken by New Westminster follows a United Way campaign called Period Promise, a program that advocates for access to free menstrual products. The campaign mobilizes local citizens to be part of the solution and individuals can take part in a variety of ways. For instance, they can give financially or donate products, organize a Period Promise campaign and collect donations from local communities. Alternatively, elected representatives, executives, union leaders and business owners can commit to providing free menstrual hygiene products to anyone accessing their facilities.
Education Minister Rob Fleming held no punches back in expressing his opinion that implementation of this program is long overdue and is merely a matter of common sense. He also stated that the stigma-free aspect of providing menstrual products in bathrooms is crucial for students whose only alternative is currently to ask school staff for tampons and pads:
“This is something that will help students not only have access to a product they can’t afford, that sometimes isn’t available in the school systems but [now] principals, vice-principals, teachers and support staff won’t necessarily have to know what your business is on a particular day.”
Eliminating the Stigma
High school is difficult enough. You are coming into your own, maturing and experiencing new things for the first time. Speaking as a female who was once an awkward teenager, take it from me, the last thing a young girl needs is to get the school faculty and personnel involved in one of, if not the most, personal thing to happen to them.
Grade 11 student in New Westminster, Rebecca Ballard, praised the government’s decision to provide free access to menstrual hygiene 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. 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.”
Susanne Skidmore, the co-chair of the Period Promise Campaign, has been open in saying that she and her colleagues have been working towards this goal – as well as other national objectives – for ten years.
A Worthy Cause
The government of British Columbia has also announced that it is providing a one-time grant of $95,000 to aid the United Way Period Promise research project. This money will go towards paying for menstrual products in up to 10 non-profit agencies as well as for research into the most suitable method of providing services and products.
It is inhumane and unjust for women not to receive proper healthcare and resources for things that they have absolutely no control over.