Premier promises menstrual products in N.L. school washrooms by 2022

·2 min read
Premier Andrew Furey announced Monday that Newfoundland and Labrador schools will have free menstrual products in at least one washroom by January. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC - image credit)
Premier Andrew Furey announced Monday that Newfoundland and Labrador schools will have free menstrual products in at least one washroom by January. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC - image credit)

In front of a few dozen students at Brother Rice Junior High in St. John's on Monday, Premier Andrew Furey pledged $30,000 to ensure at least one bathroom in any Newfoundland and Labrador school with students in Grade 4 and up would be equipped with menstrual products.

The government plans to install one dispenser with period products in at least one bathroom every school in the province by January.

"Students will be able to discreetly, and without embarrassment, to access the products that they need," said Furey. "No shame. No guilt. No time missed."

Standing at the back of Celtic Hall at the St. John's school, principal Michael Hayley welcomed the news.

"This is going to be a great solution," he told the media after Monday's announcement. "For equity and to empower all students so that they feel comfortable and safe in an inclusive school is what we all strive for."

Newfoundland and Labrador now becomes the fifth province in Canada, following British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Ontario, to provide the products in school washrooms.

The head of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Woman, Paula Sheppard, commended the government on the move.

"These products are essential items needed to manage one's health and to be able to do some with dignity," she said.

Jeremy Eaton/CBC
Jeremy Eaton/CBC

Some schools, like Brother Rice, already have products in the schools but students need to ask for them through the principal or guidance counsellor.

Adding dispensers to a washroom will eliminate potentially awkward conversations, she said.

"When students have access to products in bathrooms they feel relieved and they no longer lose valuable class time," Sheppard said.

Pam Parsons, the minister responsible for women and gender equality, told the students gathered that she had stopped into a store on her way to the school, where she noted that menstrual products cost between $7-$12 before taxes.

"We wouldn't think twice about providing toilet paper in bathrooms," said Parsons.

"No student should feel stigmatized, discriminated against or miss school days due to the inaccessibility and affordability of these products."

Jeremy Eaton/CBC
Jeremy Eaton/CBC

Sheppard also acknowledged the impact the cost of the products can have on the budget of students.

"Period products are a necessity, not a luxury," she said.

"This fundamental shift, improved accessibility also acknowledges the reality of period poverty. [It's] a financial barrier that is the reality for many in our province."

She said the problem is even worse in Labrador because such products are even more expensive there.

"This financial burden is even more pronounced in northern and remote communities in Labrador where the cost of living is much higher and access more restrictive."

Premier Furey said the $30,000 cost for the program will be covered by the Health Department budget. Ahead of the dispensers' installation, a informational poster campaign will be launched in the schools.

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