Various menstrual products are seen, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in Kennesaw, Ga. Free menstrual products are being made available in every British Columbia public school. (Mike Stewart/THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP)

British Columbia students to get free menstrual hygiene products

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All public schools in British Columbia will be required to provide free menstrual products for students in school washrooms by the end of 2019, the Western province’s education minister announced Friday.

Rob Fleming said research indicates that one in seven students has missed school due to their periods because they cannot afford menstrual hygiene products.

“Students should never have to miss school, extracurricular, sports or social activities because they can’t afford or don’t have access to menstrual products,” said Fleming.

“This is a common-sense step forward that is, frankly, long overdue. We look forward to working with school districts and communities to make sure students get the access they need with no stigma and no barriers.”

The province will provide schools with $300,000 in start-up funding for the initiative, making it the first province in Canada to mandate free menstrual products in schools.

In addition, government is also providing a one-time grant of $95,000 to support the United Way Period Promise Research Project, to fund menstrual products for up to 10 non-profit agencies and research into how best to provide services and products for people who menstruate, officials said.

The cost and availability of menstrual products is a real concern for many low-income families who face the choice between spending money on food and other essentials and menstrual care products, said B.C. Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson.

“Having your period is a part of life, and easy and affordable access to menstrual products should be simple,” said Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity Mitzi Dean. “Menstrual products should be available to people when and where they need them, which is why we’re improving access in schools and in communities.”

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