Menstrual products advocated for schools

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CONCERNS about period poverty — inadequate access to menstrual hygiene supplies and education — have prompted a pair of students at Collège Jeanne-Sauvé to call on school leaders to stock washrooms with free pads and tampons.

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This article was published 04/02/2022 (191 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

CONCERNS about period poverty — inadequate access to menstrual hygiene supplies and education — have prompted a pair of students at Collège Jeanne-Sauvé to call on school leaders to stock washrooms with free pads and tampons.

Last week, Grade 10 classmates Chloe Crockford and Isabel O’Brien each penned a letter to the superintendent of the Louis Riel School Division to request the board begin providing students with period products at no cost.

“It shouldn’t be a privilege to get pads and tampons,” said Chloe, 15, in an interview with the Free Press. “I’m very fortunate that (my family) can afford these products. It is extremely expensive and not everyone has that luxury.”

Collège Jeanne-Sauvé students Chloe Crockford (left) and Isabel O’Brien. (Jessica Lee / Winnipeg Free Press)

In her letter, the high school student wrote about the ongoing stigmatization of menstruation, the limited education about it in the K-12 system, and noted some of her peers who have periods cannot attend school because of the cost barrier of hygiene products.

Chloe cited various research, including a 2018 report from Plan International Canada.

One-third of Canadian women under the age of 25 have struggled to afford menstrual products, according to a recent poll undertaken by the organization dedicated to advancing children’s rights and equality for girls.

Isabel said it costs $0.25 to purchase a tampon from the single dispenser in the CJS washroom that has been designated for grades 9 and 10 girls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve never actually used it because I don’t carry around quarters, so I don’t know if it’s empty,” said the 15-year-old, noting all bathrooms for students in grades 5 and up should have pads and tampons so they are visible and, in turn, periods are normalized so menstruators don’t have to feel embarrassed about them.

Isabel added: “I would really like to see my school have them more out in the open, in bathrooms and in the office… so it becomes a topic that is not so hushed up.”

The young women contacted superintendent Christian Michalik to raise the issue as part of a French Language Arts assignment.

Earlier in the semester, CJS teachers Véronique Reynolds and Victoria Gudmundson tasked their students with “Projet Solidarité,” a letter-writing assignment that required them to contact either a local politician or leader to create awareness about an issue they care about.

The educators said their shared goal was to highlight the value of student voice and encourage students to practise formal French writing.

Chloe and Isabel said they were pleasantly surprised to receive a prompt response from Michalik and an invitation to meet with him and other senior administrators to discuss their pitch.

After reading the letters, Darcy Cormack, assistant superintendent of diversity, equity and inclusion and anti-racism services, immediately surveyed principals about their practices.

While all division schools have access to menstrual products — many of them via donation from the Always #EndPeriodPoverty program — distribution differs between buildings, Cormack said.

Some schools may have baskets of tampons in washrooms. Others ensure a guidance counsellor, student services educator or secretary has a box of pads.

Cormack said she plans to work with the Grade 10 student duo to assess the current setup and determine how they can destigmatize the process of accessing period products in the division.

“We have a responsibility to try to work together to remove barriers… (to) anything that is getting in the way of students attending school or participating in a full life,” she said, adding there should be universal access to pads and tampons in the community.

It is not lost on Cormack both the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation rate are additional challenges that exacerbate this accessibility issue.

Throughout the 2019 provincial election, the Manitoba NDP campaigned on a promise to make menstrual hygiene products free for students.

The New Democrats, who have since been petitioning the Progressive Conservative government to make pads and tampons available in schools, estimate it would cost $300,000 annually to provide pads and tampons to students in grades 6 to 12 in Manitoba.

Ontario, Nova Scotia, B.C., and Prince Edward Island have all launched programs to stock school washrooms with menstrual products in recent years.

More recently, in late 2021, Canada’s Indigenous services minister announced plans to make these hygiene products freely available in all on-reserve schools.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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Updated on Friday, February 4, 2022 6:15 AM CST: updates cutline

Updated on Friday, February 4, 2022 7:16 AM CST: Resizes photo

Updated on Friday, February 4, 2022 8:26 AM CST: Corrects typo

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