A pilot project to supply free menstruation products to students in Red Deer is paving the way to hopefully eliminate ‘period poverty’ in Alberta, says one of the organizers.
Period Promise, a 15-month project that will put tampon and pad dispensers in every washroom in four schools with Red Deer Public Schools, will start in a few weeks.
“It’s pretty exciting that dispensers will go in boys washrooms, and girls washrooms, and staff washrooms and gender neutral washrooms as well. It’s going to destigmatize what menstruation is all about,” said Sherri Smith, president of Soroptimist International of Central Alberta.
Soroptimists have partnered with Central Alberta United Way on the project, and received a $20,250 gender equality grant from Red Deer & District Community Foundation.
Participating schools will include Eastview Middle School, G. H. Dawe School, Normandeau School, and Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.
Smith said menstruation is a normal bodily function and nobody should be ashamed or embarrassed. It affects half the population and some families in Canada have to choose food over feminine hygiene products.
“Pads and tampons should be supplied in washrooms the exact same way toilet paper is. There should be equality.”
She said the products may already be available at the school office, but some students are too ashamed.
Smith hoped that if boys know that their sister or mom needs them, they will also take home the products from dispensers.
Nicole Buchanan, board chair for Red Deer Public Schools, said students should never have to miss school, extracurricular, sports, or social activities because they can’t afford, or don’t have access to, menstrual products.
“Equity is a priority for Red Deer Public Schools. By reducing barriers for students to these necessary products, our division is making a real change in the lives of students,” Buchanan said.
Principal Lisa Spicer, at Normandeau School, said it’s not uncommon for students to ask for hygeine products at school and expects many students will use the dispensers.
“I assume for everyone who comes to ask, there are multiple who don’t ask because they’re too shy or embarrassed,” Spicer said.
“From an equality standpoint, whether it’s financial or gender equality or anything, I just like that we’re reducing the stigma of needing products and having the opportunity to provide it to all of our kids,” the principal said.
Smith said in May a hygiene product and awareness drive will be announced to encourage Red Deer businesses, facilities and organizations to provide hygiene products for free in their washrooms. Similar projects are already underway in other parts of Canada.
“Maybe in the future we’ll have this whole collective of all these people to lobby the province like they did in British Columbia and what they’re trying to do in Ontario. That’s the future goal.”