RDDCF Presents Grant so Soroptimist International of Central Alberta Can Make a Promise
Over $20,000 will go towards providing menstrual hygiene products, free of charge, at local schools through Fund for Gender Equality
Studies have shown that one in seven females and non-binary individuals in Canada will miss educational hours because of a lack of access to pads and tampons, largely due to financial circumstances. In consultation with Red Deer Public School counsellors, it was identified that teachers often purchase these products out-of-pocket to address the issue of period poverty in the schools.
Now, with a $20,250 grant from the Fund for Gender Equality, Soroptomist International of Central Alberta, in partnership with United Way of Central Alberta, will be able to take the first step towards providing barrier-free access to those who need products.
“Public awareness about period poverty and the inability to access menstrual hygiene products has ignited a movement calling for free and accessible pads and tampons in restrooms and public spaces around the world, including schools,” Sherri Smith, President of Soroptimist International of Central Alberta said. “The Period Promise is an initiative to gain commitment from schools, workplaces and various levels of government to provide free menstrual hygiene products in their facilities.”
Period Promise will be a new initiative for Central Alberta, and the initial phase will focus on four local schools, providing hygiene products and dispensers for the course of an entire year. The barrier-free access will be gender-inclusive, and available in both male and female washrooms.
“We will be working with the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) to provide education to staff, as well as educational materials in print and digital form to students,” Smith said. “At the end of the year we will gather data from these schools through staff and student surveys to show the impact of the pilot program.”
Smith said that while access to menstrual hygiene products should be a basic human right, they are not always easily obtained by many females in Central Alberta. Only through improving access to products and normalizing the conversations around menstruation, she said, can gender equality be advanced. Not having equitable access to education due to lack of ability to obtain hygiene products creates a barrier for all students who menstruate.
Once the data has been collected from the one-year time frame, the club plans to expand the project through partnerships with local businesses, school divisions and multiple levels of government.
“This is an equality issue because access to tampons and pads is as essential as toilet paper – it’s a normal bodily function that affects half the population,” Smith said. “It is time to stop the shame, stigma and taboos. Period.”
As the current president of Soroptimist International of Central Alberta, I feel this opportunity is very timely for the province of Alberta and Canada. I love the fact that the two organizations I have spent a huge amount of my life volunteering for, are teaming up together on a project which we both have a passion about. I am excited to work with the United Way of Central Alberta and welcome their expertise, contacts and participation, because together we are going to make this work. A few schools receiving dispensers and products will lead to an entire school district which will lead to advocating for province wide support for people who menstruate. It may take some time, but we are not going to give up until we end the shame and silence.
~ Sherri Smith, President of Soroptimist International of Central Alberta