The Ontario government says it will offer free feminine hygiene products in schools after making a three-year deal with Shoppers Drug Mart.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Friday the government will distribute six million free menstrual products each year to all 72 school boards in Ontario, starting this current school year in late fall.
It will be up to school boards to determine how to distribute the products based on local needs, Lecce said.
Pads specifically will be the products made available to students first in this initiative, but Lecce said they will evaluate student feedback to determine if they should add other feminine hygiene products such as tampons.
“Menstrual products are of course a necessity, not a luxury,” Lecce said.
“For women and girls, ensuring that they have access to these products is key for their health and successful participation within the school. But the reality is that some students cannot afford or access them and this creates barriers.”
The government said according to a survey by Plan International Canada, 63 per cent of women and girls have regularly or occasionally missed an activity because of their period and concerns about not being able to access menstrual products or proper facilities.
The survey also indicated that 34 per cent of women and girls, either regularly or occasionally, have had to sacrifice something else in order to afford menstrual products due to their budget.
“This donation will provide thousands of students in Ontario with free access to period products, thousands who won’t have to make that difficult choice,” said Shoppers Drug Mart president Jeff Leger. “We are proud to be a part of this initiative, and grateful to our stores, our partners, and our customers for their support.”
Over the next three years, Shoppers Drug Mart will donate 18 million menstrual products and 1,200 dispensers.
Lecce said Ontario is joining other provinces, such as British Columbia, Nova Scotia and P.E.I., to tackle period poverty within the school system.