New Westminster makes history with pads and tampons, endorses Period Promise

In an historic decision, the Board of Education for New Westminster Schools voted to supply free pads and tampons in school bathrooms. The decision will improve access to menstrual products for local students, reducing the vulnerability and isolation caused by period poverty.

Trustees also voted to endorse the Period Promise campaign by United Way of the Lower Mainland. The campaign invites people to donate menstrual products, to organize their own collection drive, or to commit to providing menstrual products free of charge in facilities.

Community members celebrate the precedent-setting decision to provide free pads and tampons in New Westminster schools. Pictured: New Westminster school board trustees and staff; local activist Selina Tribe; Janet Andrews of the New Westminster District Labour Council; and Neal Adolph of United Way of the Lower Mainland.

A delegation of United Way representatives presented at the February 26 meeting, alongside Vancouver resident and activist Dr. Selina Tribe.

“Period products are no different than toilet paper, and just as essential,” says Selina Tribe, Vancouver resident and advocate. “This decision acknowledges the reality of menstruation, and reduces the stigma.”

Vancouver resident Selina Tribe addresses the New Westminster school board. Selina has been instrumental in raising the awareness of the need for access to pad and tampons and schools around the Lower Mainland.

Tribe began advocating for free sanitary products in schools earlier this year and has presented before several school districts. She has since joined forces with United Way of the Lower Mainland as they both advocate for increased access to menstrual products in the community.

“Selina has been an inspiring voice for change on this issue,” says Neal Adolph, Director of the CLC Labour Participation department at United Way of the Lower Mainland. “She demonstrates the power and impact a single person can have when they see a local problem, take action, and mobilize their community to be a part of the solution. This is local love.”

A wave province-wide?

New Westminster is now the first and only school district in the province to fund free pad and tampon dispensers at all its schools – but possibly not for long.

Trustees will take the matter province-wide. The school board will engage the British Columbia School Trustees Association (BCSTA) to request that the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance fund all B.C. school districts, to purchase, install and supply free tampon and pad dispensers bathrooms in every school in the Province.

Trustees of the New Westminster Board of Education endorsing the Period Promise campaign after their precedent-setting vote on February 26. The issue of free menstrual products will now come before school trustees, province-wide.

“I applaud New Westminster school trustees for truly leading the way,” says Neal Adolph. “I hope other organizations will follow suit and pledge free access in their facilities, as part of the Period Promise campaign. It helps people live with the dignity we all deserve.”

The reality of period poverty, locally

Periods might be tough to talk about, but they’re just a fact of life. Menstrual products are a necessity, but it can cost on $68 on average, per year, to have a period. This figure can be much higher for some people.

Some sobering facts:

  • Nearly 1 in 7 Canadian girls have missed school due to a lack of period protection. This figure could be much higher for young trans people.
  • According to Plan International, almost 1/4 of Canadian women say they have struggled to afford menstrual products for themselves or their children.
  • Almost 60% of local community organizations say they are asked for free menstrual products, but most cannot provide them.

Period poverty is an unfortunate reality, right in our own backyards. But fortunately, we can change that. You can help.

Take action March 7 to April 4

Now many local residents asking: What next? How can I help?

It’s time to make your Period Promise!

From March 7 to April 4, take part in the Period Promise campaign by United Way of the Lower Mainland. You can organize a collection drive in your workplace or community, donate yourself, or follow the lead of the New Westminster school board: pledge to providing free menstrual products in your own organization’s facilities.

United Way's Neal Adolph talking Period Promise on CTV Morning Live

United Way of the Lower Mainland’s Neal Adolph discussed the Period Promise campaign on CTV Morning Live February 27. Click to watch.

“At United Way we want to make our communities healthier, caring, and more inclusive,” says Janet Andrews, Secretary-Treasurer of the New Westminster District Labour Council and member of the United Way of the Lower Mainland Board of Directors. “When you join this movement, you are showing an act of local love.”

Get started today at periodpromise.ca

Be sure to spread the word using #periodpromise. Check out stories on CTV Morning Live, CTV Vancouver News, CBC Vancouver and cbc.caVancouver Sun, The Province, the New Westminster Record, the Daily Hive, and Star Metro Vancouver.