Free menstrual products coming to Ontario schools, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announces

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About six million menstrual products will be provided free to schools in Ontario each year as part of a three-year program announced Friday by Education Minister Stephen Lease after pressure from youth leaders and boards.

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The move – which some school boards have already implemented in early 2019 – addresses the growing awareness of “period poverty,” where girls either don’t have access to pads and tampons, or can’t afford it. can, and it interferes with their ability. To participate in sports and activities or even to go to school.

Similar initiatives have been taken in some other provinces as well.

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In Ontario, Lecce said the program is supported by Shoppers Drug Mart, which has been making the products available for free since this fall.

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

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“This agreement will help remove barriers by allowing women and girls to access products at school for free. This is another important way we are helping to build more inclusive schools that empower all girls to have the confidence to succeed. “

The education ministry says student trustees and nearly half of all school boards cited period poverty as a matter of concern.

NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles called the announcement “a victory for students, organizations and school boards that have fought for governments to address the issue of period poverty and ensure that no student ever Don’t face embarrassment or miss school because of lack of access to a menstrual product.”

He commended individual students and public boards such as Thames Valley, Toronto and Waterloo for moving freely on the issue after hearing from youth.

Styles also said, “Ontario should have made this law years ago, following the lead of provinces like BC and Nova Scotia.” He put forward a proposal in the Ontario legislature in 2019 for such a move.

Last July, the Avon Maitland District School Board wrote to Lecce, “We are currently working to provide menstrual products in female and gender-neutral school washrooms. Easy access to free high quality products is fundamentally human rights.” It is important to student health, well-being and success by increasing self-confidence, respecting dignity, reducing potential financial burdens and reducing student absenteeism.

Menstrual hygiene, it said, “is not a luxury. Period poverty is real.”

Jane McKenna, Ontario’s associate minister for children and women’s issues, said, “Our government is committed to reducing stigma and removing the barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their full potential … Making that menstrual products are free and readily available to students who need them will help create a more equitable environment in our schools.”

Kristin Rushovi is a Toronto-based reporter who covers Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @krushowy
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