QUEEN’S PARK — Grade 8 students from Parkdale Junior and Senior Public School held a press conference Wednesday to call on the Ontario government to provide free menstrual products in public washrooms.
The students, who are part of the Girls Government program, were joined by their local MPP, Bhutila Karpoche (Parkdale-High Park). Girls Government was developed to encourage young women to get involved in advocacy and politics. For more than a decade now, MPPs from all parties have run the Girls Government program in various ridings.
This year, the students from Parkdale Junior and Senior Public School decided to tackle period poverty, which is when women struggle to afford essential menstrual products. The students want to change that, and are urging the Ontario government to make products like pads and tampons available for free in public washrooms, including in libraries, schools and community centres.
“This issue has been a problem for a long time due to the fact that menstruation has been such a taboo subject,” said Courtney Powers-Luketic. “This has left it neglected, especially by men in government who have the power to create change.”
“We would like period products to be available in public restrooms so that people who are homeless, low-income women and trans men, and school kids can get them for free,” said Nirvana Singh.
“I too also feel awkward asking for menstrual products at the school office and many girls feel the same way too,” said Powers-Luketic.
Through monthly meetings, Karpoche worked with the girls to develop the policy initiative and ways to effectively push that policy initiative through government. As part of that push, the girls wrote letters to provincial and federal ministers, including Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long Term Care, who they will meet with Wednesday afternoon.
“I am so proud of these students for the work they have done to advocate for access to menstrual products for women across the province,” said Karpoche. “I hope this government will hear their important message, that no one should have to suffer the indignity of having to go without these essential products, and I hope these young women will feel inspired to speak up about other issues that they are passionate about. Their voices are important.”
On May 28, the International Day of Action on Women’s Health, Karpoche will take the Girls Government students to Ottawa for a full-day trip to Parliament Hill. There, they will meet with MP Irene Mathyssen, who successfully campaigned to remove HST from period products like pads and tampons.