While female students do have free access to hygiene products within many school district’s in B.C., including School District #83, a B.C. professor says more could be done to make their experience stress-free.
Selina Tribe is a professor at Douglas College, and recently has become an advocate working to increase awareness of the importance of having tampons and other hygiene products available freely and anonymously in schools.
While tampons and other hygiene products are available from school offices and counsellors within SD83, Tribe feels an initiative in the New Westminster School District to offer free tampon dispensers in washrooms and other private areas within schools is less invasive and offers a less stressful experience for female students.
“The issue is not whether there are free pads and tampons at schools, there are. The issue is the policy of school boards across the province to require girls to go to the office to ask an adult for period products,” she says. “Some girls are shy to ask for these things from administrators; some cultures have strong taboos against talking about menstruation at all. If girls are too shy to ask, they have to supply their own at significant cost that can be a financial barrier to low income families.”
She says these issues could largely be remedied by adopting the policy of providing free dispensers in washrooms, akin to the New Westminster decision, also recommending they be provided in boys’ washrooms to make them accessible for transgender students.
School District #83 trustee Marty Gibbons says he has raised this issue with the district, and that it remains in discussion at the budget committee. However, no decision has been made as of yet. This has also been discussed in the B.C. legislature, with B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver making a rough estimate that it would cost about $2.4 million to make dispensers available in all provincial school districts.
Tribe feels this issue isn’t just about preventing embarrassment, but ensuring female students won’t be missing out on valuable educational time.
“The issue boils down, at the school level, to access to education,” she says. “We know from testimonies, surveys, research, and personal experience that girls and women will avoid activities, athletics, and even miss school if they cannot manage their menstrual flow. College students have told me their parents kept them home for a couple of days each month so they could manage periods at home without embarrassment.”