Nova Scotia announced that free menstrual products would be made available in all public schools in September, but questions remain about how the program will be funded.
Canada’s Ocean Playground followed the lead of British Columbia, who announced last April that the program would come with $300,000 in provincial startup funding and clear instructions for making the menstrual products accessible in school washrooms.
The goal of having the products available in washrooms is to reduce stigma and anxiety students may feel that can sometimes be associated with having to “ask” for the products.
But back in Nova Scotia, questions have been raised by both teachers and opposition politicians over how the menstrual product roll-out has been handled.
In particular, some teachers have expressed concern over the fact that paying for the products is coming from a preexisting toiletries budget and not new funding.
“We were all very excited that this was going to happen in our schools in Nova Scotia and then we find out three days later that the money was not available to buy the product,” Debbie MacEachern said, a teacher at the Cobequid Educational Centre in Truro.
“We were ready to start making this accessible and then we find out that it’s going to be a struggle to get the product and have it accessible in our schools. So, it was a very frustrating time for us.”
Education Minister Zach Churchill says finding the money to pay for the products is a non-issue. He said there is extra room within the toiletries budget to pay for the new initiative and that additional money will be provided if required.
“It is fully funded through our toiletries budget. We consulted with our regional centres of education on how much more they would need to accommodate this policy shift and they told us that they could accommodate it within the toiletries budget that they currently have,” Churchill said.
NDP MLA Claudia Chender questions why the provincial government announcement in Nova Scotia didn’t include specific instructions on making the products available to students in washrooms.
She feels leaving individual schools to decide how and where the menstrual products are accessible doesn’t help reduce the stigma that can be associated with having to ask for them.
“One of the things the teachers’ spoke about was that we thought that they would be available in washrooms for menstruating people to get themselves and that’s not the case as far as we understand and so that doesn’t do anything to reduce the stigma, someone still has to ask,” Chender said.
Churchill says N.S. public health has given approximately $50,000 in funding to help with the initiative.