Sun. Jul 3rd, 2022

Approximately six million menstrual products will be delivered free of charge annually to Ontario schools as part of a three-year program announced Friday by Education Minister Stephen Lecce following pressure from youth leaders and school boards.

The move – which some boards had implemented back in 2019 – addresses a growing awareness of “period poverty”, where girls do not have access to or can not afford pillows and tampons, which disrupts their ability to participate in sports and activities or even walk in school.

A few other provinces have similar initiatives in place.

“I’m so excited to hear that. That’s good news, “said 17-year-old Jazzlyn Abbott, a 12-year-old student at Valor School in Petawawa.

“This is something we’ve been advocating for over the past year, in my own school board and provincially,” added Abbott, a student counselor from the Renfrew County District School Board and a chairman of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association.

Lecce said Ontario’s program is supported by Shoppers Drug Mart, which delivers menstrual pads starting later this fall.

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

“This agreement will help remove barriers for women and girls by giving them free access to school products. This is another important way in which we help build more inclusive schools that allow all girls to have the confidence to succeed. ”

The Ministry of Education says that both student administrators and about half of all school boards mentioned period poverty as a concern.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles called the announcement “a victory for the students, organizations and school boards who have been fighting for years for governments to address the issue of period poverty and ensure that no student ever faces embarrassment or misses school. due to lack of access to menstrual products. “

She praised individual students and public boards such as the Thames Valley, Toronto and Waterloo for independently moving forward with the issue after hearing from students.

“Ontario should have enacted this legislation many years ago after leading provinces like BC and Nova Scotia,” as well as Prince Edward Island, Stiles said, noting that she had made such a proposal in the Ontario Legislature in 2019.

Cathy Abraham, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, said “the government has allocated 1,200 pad dispensers to school boards based on the number of colleges. This is certainly good news – however, it should be noted that this is a problem that also needs to be addressed in middle schools and primary schools. School boards will seek to distribute products in school premises that are easily accessible to students. ”

She also said boards would like to see “more types of menstrual products offered” through provincial initiative, e.g. Tampons.

Last July, the Avon Maitland District School Board wrote to Lecce, saying “we are currently working on delivering menstrual products to female and gender-neutral school bathrooms. Easy access to high-quality free products is fundamentally a human rights issue and crucial to student health, well-being and success” by increasing trust, respecting dignity, reducing potential financial burdens and mitigating student absenteeism. ”

Menstrual hygiene, the board added, “is not a luxury. Period Poverty is real. ”

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