All elementary and secondary schools in the Burns Lake area will now have menstrual products available to students free of charge, confirmed School District No. 91 (Nechako Lakes).
The school district’s Facilities Department designed and built dispensers for tampons and pads in early November. They were recently installed in the washrooms of schools in the area.
“The smaller schools will have at least one dispenser and high schools will have multiple depending on the number of washrooms for students,” said Mike Skinner, the school district’s assistant superintendent.
This initiative follows a ministerial order issued in April requiring schools across B.C. to carry free menstruation products by the end of 2019. Each district could determine the appropriate methods to meet this mandate.
School District No. 91’s Superintendent of Schools Manu Madhok commended staff for their efforts and said this is an important initiative.
One in seven Canadian girls have missed school because of their menstrual cycle, according to the United Way, often because of stigma or the lack of access to pads and tampons.
The province provided $300,000 in startup funding for B.C.’s 60 school districts to install the dispensary machines, as well as a one-time grant of $95,000 to support a United Way initiative that provides menstruation products for up to 10 non-profit agencies that will redistribute them to those in need.
These non-profits will track the number of people served and which products are used, as well as how the lack of access to menstrual products because of financial limitations, dubbed “period poverty,” has impacted their lives.
Poverty Reduction Minister Shane Simpson said that the data collected will be shared with the province at the end of 2020 and be used to develop more permanent policies.
In February, New Westminster’s school board voted unanimously to provide free products for students.
At the time, they estimated that the total cost would be roughly $9,700 for installing dispensary machines, with an annual cost of $7,000 for supply. They also estimated 2,800 tampons and 1,800 pads would be used across 13 schools each year.
Education Minister Rob Fleming said in April that access to menstrual products will result in a better learning environment.
“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,” Fleming said.
— With files from Ashley Washwani