Students at Clayton Heights Secondary are doing their part to combat period poverty with a collection drive for menstrual products.
Menstruation products — a basic necessity — can be difficult to access for vulnerable people, including those living in poverty. According to United Way, one in seven girls in Canada have missed school because of their period, often because of stigma or a lack of access to pads and tampons.
Every year, students organize bake sales within the school, and the profits go towards buying as many period products as possible for the Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter.
When asked why the school has hosted the fundraiser for the past several years, teacher Sarah Daintrey put it simply: “Because people on the downtown eastside do not have access to feminine products. That’s why we do it.”
In 2018, they were able to purchase 370 products. This year’s drive continues through March — donations can be dropped off at Clayton Heights Secondary’s front office.
This year, Clayton Heights Secondary’s initiative happens to coincide with United Way’s Period Promise campaign, which launched on March 7 and continues until April 4.
Although some schools, including CHS, provide free tampons for students, many do not. Nikki Hill, co-chair of United Way’s Period Promise campaign, said she has heard from teachers who have students who skip school because they don’t have access to menstrual products.
“I even had friends who told me about how they made it through school using only paper towel, but never told anyone,” she said, in a post published on the United Way of the Lower Mainland website.
“The stories of people in our communities, not only struggling to access such a basic human need, but also feeling too silenced and embarrassed to ask for help, really make this campaign important to me,” she said.
Period poverty in B.C. schools made headlines in late February, when the New Westminster school board unanimously voted to provide students with free tampons and pads. Douglas College professor Selina Tribe, who proposed the idea, said that the provision would remove stigma and cost barriers that can prevent students from fully participating in school, and to “help all students feel their bodies are valued, dignified and normal.”
Surrey Board of Education chair Laurie Larsen said that the subject was “top of mind” for Surrey after New Westminster’s decision, but noted that a decision is much easier to make for a “small district.”
CHS provides free period products for its students “because it’s a human right,” said Daintrey. Bathrooms are kept stocked with about $1,000 a year in funding from the school’s Parent Advisory Council.
Until schools adopt such a program district-wide, or the district itself funds such a project, locals can help alleviate period poverty by supporting United Way’s #PeriodPromise campaign, which is collecting financial donations and donations of period products such as tampons, pads, cups and menstrual underwear until April 4.
For more information, go to periodpromise.ca.
—with files from Amy Reid, Ashley Wadhwani