In Canada, the average age of a person experiencing their first period is twelve years, nine months. That puts them in approximately seventh grade, and it means they will go through 35 to 40 periods in school before they graduate. For many, periods start about an hour after the advent of daily activity, or right as they get to school. Too late to go home for menstrual products. Many schools carry a supply in the nurse’s office, but that requires a student to make a big deal out of the event.

As of April 5, 2019, a ministerial order in British Columbia requires schools to provide free menstrual products in student bathrooms. They are the first Canadian province to make such a motion come to pass, and it began in New Westminster, B.C., which passed local legislation to the same effect back in February.

“In my own experience, I know that many young women feel awkward asking for menstrual products at a school office, especially if there isn’t an adult there with whom they feel comfortable,” said Rebecca Ballard, a New Westminster student in the 11th grade who helped spearhead the movement there. “I believe the decision to provide this free service also symbolizes a progression towards eliminating the taboo nature of menstruation. This is something all young women go through and should never feel bad about, or ashamed.”

“This is a common-sense step forward that is, frankly, long overdue,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with school districts and communities to make sure students get the access they need, with no stigma and no barriers.”

Schools have until the end of 2019 to come into compliance, and hopefully funding will be in place by then. Currently, the budget for the provincial measure is at $300,000, which will not cover the need. School districts are hoping that local governments will help make up the slack.

The Period Promise campaign has been working toward this goal — and other national goals — for 10 years.

“This a fundamental shift to improve accessibility of menstrual products and reduce period poverty across British Columbia,” said Period Promise campaign Co-chair Susanne Skidmore.

People who menstruate spend between $30 and $60 a year on products, and younger people spend more. Schools helping to ease this burden is a tremendous step forward.

Photo: Shutterstock