Local organizations calling on Ontario to provide more funding for menstrual hygiene products in schools
The United Way Bruce Grey and the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force has partnered with It’s Personal Period in an effort to advance menstrual equity in Ontario.
In a survey done by It’s Personal Period in 2021, they found that one in two people experienced period poverty in Grey Bruce alone. 52 per cent say they have trouble accessing products, and 73 per cent say they missed out on school or work due to their period.
“Currently, we’re really concerned about the price,” said Jill Umbach, coordinator of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force. “Menstrual products are very expensive and we know the cost of food and everything else is rising right now. It’s a challenge for women and girls to be able to afford menstrual products.”
The goal of the partnership is to bring awareness to the issue of period poverty, especially in Bruce and Grey. Umbach said those numbers have definitely increased since 2021 and it’s only going to get worse.
In some other provinces, free menstrual products are offered in all public schools. That has led Ontario to start an initiative, offering funding over three years to support period products in schools. But, the United Way Bruce Grey, the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, and It’s Personal Period are pushing for more.
“We know there’s not enough in our local area,” said Umbach. “We know that in working in partnership with the Bruce Grey Catholic School Board, they’ve had to supplement those free products as well as put in new vending machines throughout all their schools.”
Umbach added that $6 million doesn’t cover the need of all people with periods in the province.
“We don’t have as many benefits flowing through that we did with CERB or with some of the increases in child tax benefits and other things that are coming into the household,” she said. “We really need to work on the fact that it’s not a luxury item. [Menstrual products] are a necessity.”
Umbach said it becomes a health concern, especially if some choose to use homemade alternatives, like socks or rags, to replace these products.
She also added that the “pink tax”, an increase in cost for products marketed towards women and female-identifying people, doesn’t help the situation.
“For many people that experience periods, there’s cramping, nausea, sore back, bloating, all of these things,” she said. “There’s also products that go along with having your period, so the same set of Tylenol or Advil is then targeted towards relief from menstruation cramps, but the price is slightly higher. The other aspect is along with access to clean and the right size of pads is the pink tax.”
In certain states, there is legislation that prevents price increase for products based on gender. For now, the local organizations are wanting to raise awareness to the issue, funding initiatives run by It’s Personal Period, and trying to get more funding on a provincial level.