Education and community partners gathered to celebrate the official launch of the New Westminster School District’s efforts to provide stigma-free access to menstrual products for all students.
“By reducing barriers for students to these necessary products, the New Westminster School District is making real changes in the lives of students,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “Removing unnecessary and inequitable barriers for students is an important issue long advocated for by the United Way Period Promise campaign. This initiative is enthusiastically supported by all our partners, including the BC Green Party caucus, which also advocated for this change.”
In February 2019, New Westminster school trustees voted unanimously to install coin-free menstrual product dispensers in all of its schools by September 2019, making them the first in the province to do so. Over the summer, more than three dozen dispensers were installed in all of the district’s 12 schools, including gender-neutral washrooms. A total of 2,800 tampons and 1,800 napkins have been provided for the start of the 2019 school year.
“Addressing period poverty closes the gap on gender inequality,” said Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. “Having a period is a part of life for more than half of all British Columbians. It’s important for all students to have the opportunity to participate fully in school activities, and that means having free and open access to menstrual products.”
Fleming issued a ministerial order in April 2019, requiring all B.C. public schools to provide stigma-free access to free menstrual products for students in school washrooms. A number of districts have already made these products available to students well ahead of the start of this school year.
“This is another great example of how the New Westminster School District is leading the way with this important effort to make life better for students at a crucial time in their lives,” said Judy Darcy, MLA for New Westminster. “This leading-edge work began right here in New West and the impacts will be felt right across B.C. I could not be more proud.”
It is up to individual school districts to determine how they will make menstrual products available to students, so long as they are free and available in washrooms by the end of 2019. For example, some districts are implementing baskets, while others plan to install dispensers.
Karim Hachlaf, superintendent, New Westminster Schools —
“This is a common-sense initiative that has far-reaching implications for students across our district. Over the summer, we installed nearly three dozen coin-free dispensers in all our schools, including our gender-neutral washrooms, for a cost of $10,000. It’s a small investment with a huge impact, ensuring all students have access to basic hygiene products – and that they are supported, empowered and free from needless barriers to their well-being. We are proud to celebrate here at New Westminster Schools an initiative that is groundbreaking for B.C. and for Canada.”
Anita Ansari, board vice-chair, New Westminster Schools —
“We are thrilled today to see the outcome in equity and access for our students of a decision we made just six short months ago. As a new board of education, we were able to challenge societal norms around menstruation and make a decision to do things better, inspired by the argument put forward to us in February by Dr. Selina Tribe. The response has been incredible. We applaud the Government of B.C. for advancing this fundamental right across the province and we celebrate a step in what we hope will be a sea change in attitudes that support the dignity, education and social and emotional development of all of our students.”
Selina Tribe, professor, Douglas College —
“As a parent to a son and daughter, it is vital for me to know both are fully supported in their bodies while at school. The Province’s swift action to put free menstrual products in restrooms, where students need them, reduces shame and demonstrates to everyone that periods are perfectly normal. This policy helps students stay confident and engaged at school every day. B.C.’s leadership is an example for other provinces to follow in order to reduce barriers to education and eliminate menstrual stigma.”
Rebecca Ballard, Grade 12 student, New Westminster Secondary school —
“This is a welcome new initiative in our schools. The fact that students have to pay for the fundamental and necessary products they need is stigmatizing, particularly for those who are vulnerable. We have toilet paper free in all of our washrooms – it’s a requirement under Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. Ensuring menstrual products are free acknowledges our right to access and dignity in managing a process that is natural for half our population. Thank you for having the courage to help change the way we think about ourselves and each other.”
- One in seven students miss school due to their periods because they cannot afford menstrual products.
- When supplies are not easily accessible in school washrooms, students can feel uncomfortable having to go to an office to ask for them, or miss a portion of class if they are kept in a location that is not easily accessible.
- Government committed $95,000 to the United Way Period Promise research project, which will distribute menstrual products to 12 non-profit agencies that serve vulnerable populations throughout the province. The agencies will make the products easily accessible to clients from July 2019 to July 2020.
- The United Way funding builds on the work government is doing to reduce poverty in British Columbia. In March 2019, the B.C. government released TogetherBC, the Province’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy, which brings together investments from across government that will, over the next five years, help reduce overall poverty in the province by 25% and cut child poverty in half.
Find out more about the United Way Period Promise campaign: https://www.periodpromise.ca/
Read TogetherBC: B.C.’s Poverty Reduction Strategy: https://www.gov.bc.ca/TogetherBC/