Manitoba’s menstrual product plan will reduce stigma, financial barriers, minister says

A deal between Shoppers Drug Mart and the provincial government to make free menstrual products available in Manitoba schools and other agencies is a way to ‘destigmatize’ the fact that people have periods, the province’s families minister says.

Rochelle Squires said the agreement — which will also see products provided within domestic violence shelters and resource centres — will help reduce the financial strain for items that are an essential need.

Read more: Manitoba strikes deal with drugstore chain to supply free menstrual products

“We know that menstruation was a barrier to education for many young girls and women in our province, and at the very least we wanted to eliminate that barrier,” Squires told 680 CJOB’s Connecting Winnipeg.

“We also know that when you look at a domestic violence shelter or you look at some of our women’s resource centres, when women and girls present there, they often have nothing more than the clothes on their backs, so we need to make sure they have access to everything they need, including hygiene products.

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“So this is a good first step, where we’re moving into that space and removing those barriers.”

Squires said the cost of these essential products can be “exorbitant,” especially with rising inflation and other pressures.

“There are a lot of women and girls who do not have the resources to buy the products they need,” she said.

“If you can’t replenish your supply of tampons, you may use other products to fill in, which is un-hygenic — or you may use your products longer than is recommended. We all know about toxic shock syndrome, and we all know about the other very serious health concerns if we do not practice good hygiene.”

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Manitoba strikes deal with drugstore chain to supply free menstrual products

For the next three years, more than 3.3 million menstrual products will be donated on an annual basis, and will then be distributed by the province. School divisions will help determine where the supplies are most-needed.

Through the agreement with Shoppers Drug Mart, schools, domestic violence shelters, resource centres, and second stage and specialized programs will receive menstrual products to administer to those most in need.

Read more: Spain may soon legislate paid menstrual leave. Should Canada follow suit?

“Students in Manitoba deserve to feel comfortable going to school knowing they have access to free menstrual products when they need it, without barriers or stigma,” said education minister Wayne Ewasko at the province’s announcement of the program Thursday.

“This agreement will help build more inclusive learning environments for people who menstruate across the province and is expected to lead to positive impacts on student engagement and well-being.”

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