menstrual products

Ontario to start providing free menstrual products in schools

In an effort to tackle period poverty, free menstrual products will be provided in schools across Ontario this fall.

The Province of Ontario has partnered with Shopper's Drug Mart to provide six million free menstrual products per year to school boards over the next three years, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education announced on Oct. 8.

The products, pads to start, along with 1,200 dispensers, will go out to all school boards across Ontario. The school boards will decide which schools — both high schools and elementary — need the products, Lecce said.

The agreement is the first of its kind for Ontario and will position it as one of four provinces to take action on the issue of period poverty within schools.

The announcement comes amid calls for greater equality and organizations such as Bleed the North advocating to end period poverty.

"Through the strong advocacy of young leaders in our schools, it has become extremely clear that menstrual products are a necessity, not a luxury," said Minister Lecce.

A 2019 survey conducted by Plan International Canada showed 63 per cent of women and girls have regularly or occasionally missed an activity because of their period and concerns about not being able to access menstrual hygiene products or proper facilities.

The report also noted that 34 per cent of women and girls have had to regularly or occasionally sacrifice something else within their budget to afford menstrual products.

"Period poverty can mean a number of things including access to, and the cost of menstrual hygiene products, as well as the stigmatization periods, which can cause shame, and lower self-esteem," said Jane McKenna, associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues.

"All of these issues can impact the daily routines of girls and women, such as attending classes at school."

It's hoped that the free products will level the playing field for girls.

"Inequitable access to period products, particularly for students, can lead to missed opportunities — school, work, and other activities — and creates barriers to success," said Jeff Leger, president, Shoppers Drug Mart.

"This donation will provide thousands of students in Ontario with free access to period products, thousands who won't have to make that difficult choice."

The products and dispensers are expected in schools later this fall for the 2021-22 school year.

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