Following a campaign by No Woman Without, Period and a pilot project, the City of Edmonton will be offering free menstrual products in all women’s and gender-inclusive washrooms in city-owned facilities.
Campaign founder Scarlet Bjornson didn’t expect the decision but was thrilled to receive a call from Councillor Andrew Knack on Thursday.
“They just decided this was the right thing to do,” Bjornson said.
“I’m elated, overwhelmed, excited, thrilled — all of the positive emotions you can feel. Motivated, did I say that?”
The No Woman Without, Period campaign started in 2017.
“We saw that providing the menstrual products to different organizations was a really good first step but we wanted to focus on making the change at our local governments,” Bjornson said.
The team has been working with several councillors, including Knack, Sarah Hamilton and Aaron Paquette, for years, Bjornson said, thanking them for their support.
“I was not expecting a city-wide facility decision. I was blown away.”
“What this means for people who experience menstruation is the ability to roam and be in the community is now feasible,” Bjornson explained.
These products are expensive and for some they’re unattainable.
“To know that those issues are covered and those products will be available for them so that they can be in those spaces, it makes the community more accessible.”
Edmonton’s pilot began in 2019, councillor Bev Esslinger said, and the supplies will be in place no later than June 16.
“Really, it’s 2021 and it’s part of human kindness.
“We’ve done a pilot project in the city and we found out that it was important to have access. And really, as part of our gender equality work, this is an extension,” Esslinger said. “I’m really excited.”
“We know that a third of Canadians under 25 struggle in this area to get adequate resources,” Esslinger said.
“We provide soap and paper towels, so it seems like a natural thing that we should provide some basic necessities as well.”
Bjornson said she didn’t expect the campaign would make so much progress in just four years.
“This motivated us to go to the province, and go other cities and even go to the country and say: ‘It’s time to have this conversation really, really loud.’
“In the coming months, we would love to see a big wave of red across our country where cities just decide… this is the right thing to do.”
No Woman Without, Period is urging people to write letters of advocacy to their councillors, MLAs and MPs, pushing for an end to period poverty.
Amanda Cardinal has experienced that first hand. She was living on the street this time last year.
“Women need these,” she said. “They should have access.”
When she needed supplies, while living on street, she was faced with a difficult decision.
“To tell you the truth, I had to go steal it. I had nowhere else to go.”
Last February, the Scottish parliament became the first nation in the world to make sanitary products freely available to all women.