Free menstrual products in New Westminster schools is fantastic, and should go further than high school

These sorts of supplies should be just as available as toilet paper on a university campus

SFU's Women's Center (Photo by Chris Ho/The Peak)

Written by: Hannah Davis, Staff Writer

When I heard New Westminster would be offering free menstrual supplies across its elementary and high schools, I was proud that my hometown would be the first school district in B.C. to adopt this new policy. The way they’re being provided is through coin-free tampon and pad dispensers in all B.C. schools, reducing the stigma around menstruation and publicly confirming that which women already know: menstruation supplies are a necessity, not a luxury.

Resources like this are important and immensely powerful for young women. We learn quickly that everyone gets their periods at varying, seemingly random times in their journey through girlhood and adolescence, and so the pursuit of a tampon or pad in an emergency could at times prove difficult and awkward.

But in going through the benefits to having free and available menstrual supplies in high school, I can’t help but wish they were just as free and easily available in post-secondary too.

When I was 12 years old and needing period supplies, trying to acquire some simple menstrual products was complicated. The tampon and pad dispensers in our spooky school washrooms were perpetually out of order, but even if wasn’t it’s unfair and intimidating for spare change to get in the way of using something as necessary as any other paper product in the washroom.

The only other option was approaching friends, and it was a riddle of remembering who had gotten their periods, figuring out who was close enough to me that I could ask discreetly to borrow a pad or tampon while simultaneously not drawing too much attention to myself. Once I acquired the aforementioned menstrual aid, I felt the need to shove it into my pocket quickly enough so that no one could detect that I was in danger of bleeding into my pants.

Part of my impulse to hide the fact I was on my period as a young person may be tied to the fact that menstrual health was simply not talked about terribly openly in middle and high school. I think this new system of supplying free menstrual supplies will help alleviate some of this tension and help young women get more comfortable with their periods. It’s a way for the school to say “hey, bleeding from your vagina probably seems very weird, but don’t worry, it is normal, and here are some supplies to help you and show that we support you”.

Even aside from that relief, the money it saves students is also more than enough to be envious of from post-secondary. In making room in the budget to provide free menstrual supplies in secondary schools, they’ll be doing students a huge service by lowering their need to purchase products on their own dime and stockpile their own supply.

Providing these products is a relatively simple change in budget allotment for a large institution, but makes an enormous difference to a student who isn’t working full-time and living on a non-existent salary. Even with the greater number of students and campuses, I can easily see just as much thankfulness and benefit to coin-free tampon and pad dispensers in all university washrooms.

Currently, menstrual supplies, safer sex supplies, and pregnancy tests are available at SFU’s Women’s Centre. These are supplied free of cost to those who need them, and I’m very thankful for organizations like the Women’s Centre and their providing these sorts of products. But I simply think it is not enough for them to be the only ones taking responsibility for menstrual, and overall women’s’, health. Knowing that some schools are achieving that makes me just want to see it everywhere else where it could help.