The P.E.I. government will pay for free period products in Island schools, food banks and shelters.
Natalie Jameson, P.E.I.'s minister responsible for the status of women, made the announcement in the legislature Thursday afternoon.
"Menstruation isn't typically something we talk about in the house, or even in public, in general," Jameson said. "This silence needs to end. It creates stigma and shame about a natural, biological event."
Without adequate period products like pads, tampons or menstrual cups, women are unable to fully participate in work or school, she said.
Jameson said based on a recent study, she believes many Islanders with periods sometimes struggle to pay for menstrual products.
She said an Opposition motion on the matter introduced last fall got her thinking about what could be done, so she began working with Education Minister Brad Trivers on a solution.
"There will soon be posters set up in schools across the province that show students where to go to get free menstrual products when needed," Jameson said, noting pads and tampons had been made available in the past, but students had to ask for them, and even some teachers didn't know they were available.
"Any student will be able to access these products in their schools, for free, no questions asked," she said, adding the province will also provide pads and tampons for P.E.I. food banks and shelters.
The program will cost about $15,000 per year, she said.
'Free and universal is really critical'
Opposition house leader Hannah Bell is pleased with the move.
"This is actually a great announcement," Bell said.
"It's about dignity and equity — and dignity is not having to explain or seek permission. Equity is that this is available to anybody regardless of their circumstances."
Bell pointed to legislation passed Tuesday in Scotland to provide free universal period products, making it the first country in the world to do so.
"Free and universal is really critical," Bell said, later tweeting that it is important the products be freely available, not behind locked doors or requiring anyone to ask for them.
She also asked Jameson to add the women's correctional centre to its list, and consider adding colleges and universities too.
Liberal MLA Gord McNeilly also stood in the legislature to support the move.
According to a June 2019 article by Vanora D'Sa posted on the Canadian Public Health Asssociation website, "It is estimated that Canadian women spend up to $6,000 in their lifetime on menstrual hygiene products (Craggs, 2018). Women in rural communities can pay double the price for the same products found in larger cities."
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