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Province strikes deal for free menstual products in schools

Students in Ontario schools will have access to free menstrual products after the province made a deal with Shoppers Drug Mart.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce made the announcement on Friday morning.

“Through the strong advocacy of young leaders in our schools, it has become extremely clear that menstrual products are a necessity, not a luxury,” he said in a statement released Friday. “This agreement will help remove barriers for women and girls by allowing them to access products at school, free of charge. It is another important way that we are helping to build more inclusive schools that empower all girls to have the confidence to succeed.”

The deal with Shoppers Drug Mart will see six million menstrual products delivered to school boards each year for the next three years. Boards will determine how they will be distributed. It’s expected the first shipments will arrive late in the fall.

“Inequitable access to period products, particularly for students, can lead to missed opportunities — school, work, and other activities — and creates barriers to success,” said Shoppers Drug Mart President Jeff Leger. “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. We are proud to be a part of this initiative, and grateful to our stores, our partners, and our customers for their support.”

Citing a survey by Plan International Canada, the province says more than six in 10 women and girls have missed an activity because of their period and concerns about a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products or proper facilities. The survey also found about a third have had to sacrifice something else in order to afford menstrual products.

The move is being applauded by the oppositon at Queen’s Park. But NDP education critic Marit Stiles says much of the credit should go to those who fought for free menstrual products.

“Today’s announcement is a victory for the students, organizations and school boards who have fought for years for governments to address the issue of period poverty and ensure no student ever faces embarrassment or misses school because of lack of access to menstrual products,” she said.

Stiles also pointed out the initial roll out of the plan will only include pads, not tampons or cups. The province says it will look at feedback from students to determine if other products will be added in the future.

Some schools boards in the province, including the Thames Valley District School Board, the Avon Maitland District School Board, the Lambton Kent District School Board, the St. Clair Catholic School Board, and the Greater Essex County District School Board are already providing or have made plans to provide free menstrual products to students. The Thames Valley board was the first in the province to do so.
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