Menstrual products are a basic necessity, but for disadvantaged people or those living in poverty, it can be difficult to find products that are both affordable and sanitary. For students, this issue impedes our day-to-day functioning, and can often put us in undignified situations.

People who menstruate, whether they are women, trans, or non-binary people, know the struggle of an unexpected period, or one that they are not prepared for. They know the challenge of asking friends or colleagues for their help, or rushing to a washroom to find that product either isn’t available or is locked away behind a paywall.

No student should have leave class or work early – or miss out entirely – because of an unexpected period. No student should have to purchase product from a vending machine so that they can continue to live with basic dignity. No student should have to choose between purchasing food and purchasing tampons. Unfortunately, this happens more often than people realise.

Building a United Front

Just like toilet paper and soap, menstrual products can and should be free in all washrooms so that people who menstruate can access them as they need them. That is why the BC Federation of Students is proud to have signed the United Way Period Promise Policy Agreement and committing to provide menstrual products for free in our washroom at our office in New Westminster.

The United Way’s Period Promise campaign has made an incredible impact in communities across the Lower Mainland and British Columbia. The campaign aims to reduce the negative effects associated with period poverty and the inability of those from low income and more marginalised groups to access the products needed to manage menstruation in a dignified way. Through donation drives and advocacy efforts, the campaign has collected over 500,000 tampons, pads, menstrual cups, and underwear in 2019 alone. These products have been delivered to community agencies to give to vulnerable women, trans, and non-binary people.

No Time Like the Present

This past April, Minister of Education Rob Flemming announced that all public K-12 schools would provide free menstrual products for students in school washrooms by the end of 2019. In the announcement, Minister Flemming said this move is about normalizing and equalizing access to menstrual products, and helping to create a better learning environment for students. This government action is a direct result of the incredible work being done behind the scenes by advocates and campaign supporters.

Students’ unions can help lead in this endeavour. We have the opportunity to build on the momentum of the K-12 initiative and do something to address period poverty at post-secondary campuses across the province. And we’re committed to doing something about it.

The Federation’s Executive Committee voted unanimously to endorse the United Way’s Period Promise campaign, and signed on to their Period Promise Policy Agreement on July 3, 2019. With this agreement, the Federation has committed to ensure menstrual products are available free for staff, directors, guests, students, and volunteers in our office.

This is one of the best ways for us to begin to combat the issue of period poverty in our own organisation and across the post-secondary sector in BC. By showing leadership in our own actions, as well as working with the United Way, administrators and government to take action on campuses, we can eliminate this barrier to success in post-secondary education for good. And that is going to be good for all of us.