Corp Comm Connects

York Region urged to provide free menstrual products

'This is really no different from providing tissues, hand soap or water in public washrooms'
May 10, 2022
Kim Zarzour

The Region of York is considering providing free menstrual products in public facilities.

Keyna Sarkar, executive director of The RedMvmnt, asked the region at a committee meeting on May 5 to support “gender equality and menstrual equity.”

The Red Mvmnt is a youth-led non-profit organization founded by Sarkar, focused on education, the provision of period products and advocacy for “period positive laws.”

Sarkar, an 18-year-old Brampton student, said 24 per cent of Canadian women struggle to afford period products, including 33 per cent under the age of 25, and this can cause them to avoid activities like classes and work meetings.

The inability to afford or access safe, hygienic and sufficient menstrual hygiene products is called period poverty, she said.

“It’s essentially having to choose between a packet of pads or electricity, food or a box of tampons” and has been connected to lack of self-esteem, infections and other health issues, she said.

About 13 per cent of York Region residents live in poverty, according to the region’s 2016 census data.

This was pre-pandemic; those stats have likely worsened, she said.

Sarkar said period products are one of the most requested products at food banks, shelters and other crisis aid locations.

“If York provides these products in community centres, public libraries and other public facilities, it would alleviate the pressure on food banks and shelters.

“This is really no different from providing tissues, hand soap or water in public washrooms. Periods are natural and periods don’t stop.”

Other jurisdictions have implemented similar programs, including the Toronto District School Board, Edmonton, Brampton, Mississauga and Cambridge.

Sarkar said she is hopeful all nine local municipalities in York will also consider taking action.

Regional council voted to receive the presentation and referred it to staff.