OPINION – Students Need Institution’s Help in Combating Period Poverty ie: Tampons

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New Westminster – Post-secondary students across British Columbia came together over the weekend to discuss issues facing students in the province. One of these issues was menstrual equity. No student should have to leave class or work early – or miss out entirely – because of an unexpected period. No student should have to purchase products 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 realize.

“The University of Northern British Columbia just announced that they will be providing free menstrual products in all washrooms across their campus,” says Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students. “This is a result of the collective efforts of students and advocates in Prince George and we are hopeful that other schools in British Columbia will follow suit.”

The BC Federation of Students and numerous students’ unions across the province have signed on to the United Way’s Period Promise campaign to help advocate for accessible menstrual products in all public spaces.

The advocacy of students and coalition groups, along with the Period Promise campaign, led to meaningful change when Minister of Education Rob Flemming made menstrual products available for free in all public K-12 schools in 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. Post-secondary students are now left wondering why this can’t be a possibility on their campuses too.

“We have been pushing our institution to supply menstrual products for free in all bathrooms on campus,” says Hemvir Singh, Broadway Campus Students’ Representative at the Students’ Union of Vancouver Community College, “all institutions should be looking to UNBC right now and realizing that they can easily take a huge step towards a more accessible and equitable school as students return to campus in the Fall.”

The cost of providing free menstrual products on campus is negligible for universities and colleges, but can be the difference between attending or missing school if you are struggling to afford menstrual products. A full-time student taking four courses for two semesters -spending roughly 336 hours on campus a year- would only need around 10.4 products per year, which costs about $2.60 a year, or 22 cents a month. For an institution with 10,000 students, for example, the provision of free menstrual products would cost just $13,000 a year – this is well within the budget of many public institutions in BC. If post-secondary schools in BC want to make their campuses more accessible and equitable when students arrive again in the Fall, they will take this step and provide menstrual products for free in all bathrooms.

The BC Federation of Students represents over 170,000 students at 15 universities, colleges, and institutes in every region of BC. Together, these students advocate for a well-funded system of post-secondary education in BC that is affordable and accessible for all students.

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