Recent claims that the New Westminster School District made history by providing free pads and tampons to students have prompted discussions in other cities.
Okanagan Skaha School District 67 representatives have said it has already been offering these essential products at no cost to its students.
“Feminine products have been available free of charge for a number of years in our district,” said Wendy Hyer, superintendent of schools. “This practice speaks to the importance we place on young ladies having access to these products when needed.”
Hyer said Penticton Secondary School recently removed the coin-operated feminine product machines from the school’s bathrooms because “apparently they weren’t being used.” The school currently offers these products at no charge out of the office and counselling suite.
Sandra Richardson, vice principal at the school, said offering these products free of charge to students does not necessarily cut into operational costs.
“A lot of companies that manufacture these products give them to the schools at no charge,” said Richardson. “We’ve had companies email our counselors and they’d reply yes to have them send samples. And they’d send us boxes of hygeine stuff.”
Princess Margaret Secondary School operates under the same mandate as Pen High, offering feminine products free of charge and not relying on coin-operated dispensers in bathrooms.
“At Princess Margaret Secondary School (in Penticton), feminine products are on hand in the office (medical room) and are free of charge,” said Hyer. “They do not have machines (in the bathrooms).”
In the Central Okanagan school district pads and tampons are also free of charge to students in middle and secondary schools.
“Access to free feminine hygiene products at school has never been an issue, in the sense that there are bundles of supplies in multiple locations,” said Terry Beaudry, deputy superintendent for the district. “We want to ensure our girls are well looked after and they are not put in an uncomfortable position to have to leave the school or head home for hygiene products.”
The conversation of free pads and tampons, as well as not taxing these items, has been ongoing in Canada. According to Canadian Menstruators, until 2015 “the Canadian government considered all menstrual hygiene products a non-essential item or luxury” and therefore charged GST on these items.
“In 2014, it’s estimated that approximately 17,876,392 Canadian women between the ages of 12–49 spent about $519,976,963.00 on menstrual hygiene products,” states Canadian Menstruators’ website. “That means the government collected approximately $36,398,387.00 in government sales taxes because our uteruses did what they do naturally. Our government made money off our bodies.”
A 2018 study conducted by Plan International found that one-third of Canadian women under 25 have struggled to afford menstrual products. On average, women under 25 specifically say they spend more than $200 more per month on personal appearance and hygiene products than men and feminine hygiene products were noted as one of the “top three material costs of being a woman” across all age groups.
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