Canada’s largest school board, the Toronto District School Board recently decided to provide free menstrual products in elementary and secondary schools. 

These products will be provided at no cost to the students, and also at no cost to the city, as the school board is teaming up with the charity Physical and Health Education Canada. The first province to provide this service was British Columbia, earlier this year, but the move to make these products free is spreading. The Toronto school district joins others in Ontario who have already adopted this measure, including the Waterloo Region District School Board and Thames Valley District School Board in London.

The motion to provide the products was carried 21-0.

Gill stated: “I view access to menstrual products as a basic right … These products belong in the same category as toilet paper, soap and water in washrooms. It is important for other school boards, not only in Ontario, but across Canada, to implement similar initiatives.” 

Toronto’s new program should be up and running this fall, though the details are still being sorted out. While the products will be provided, it has not been determined in what washrooms they will be placed. Given the recent difficulties, perhaps they should be located in all the washrooms, so that whoever has need can get access no matter which washroom they attend.

In the U.K., there has been pressure from women’s groups to remove the tax from menstrual products, since they are actually a necessity and not a voluntary item. Prisoners in the US have to pay for their menstrual products, which turns this essential item into a jailhouse currency. Across the developed and developing worlds, women and girls are stigmatized for this natural phenomenon, access to products and basic human dignity is denied.

It is not uncommon for girls to miss classes or school altogether for lack of access to sanitary products. This measure by the Toronto District School Board should make both access and awareness an ordinary thing.