Finally. Students across the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) will no longer have to pay for menstrual products after a motion to provide them for free passed on Thursday. Beginning with this coming 2019-20 school year, free tampons in Ontario schools under the TDSB will be freely available.

As the motion outlines, period poverty (lack of access to period products due to economic factors) impacts young girls and women across the world. It can be particularly damaging during puberty, when a girl's social school interactions are crucial to their development.

TDSB Trustee Harpreet Gill told Narcity this Toronto victory is just one of many battles on the long road to end period poverty.

"In my mind, I view access to menstrual products as a basic right. These products belong in the same category as toilet paper, soap and water in washrooms," Gill told Narcity.

"It is important for other school boards, not only in Ontario but across Canada, to implement similar measures. And we shouldn't stop there. All public washrooms should be equipped to provide menstrual products for free of charge."

The motion goes on to explain that one in seven girls have had to leave school early or miss it entirely because of a lack of access to necessary menstrual products. 

Furthermore, over 30 percent of women struggle to afford tampons, pads, and other menstrual products for themselves or their dependents, according to a Plan Canada study. 

Stats like these are just a few of the reasons why this battle was such an important one to fight, Gill explains."This was not only about providing free menstrual products in our schools. This is about achieving equity and sending out the powerful, and much-needed, message towards eliminating the stigma around menstruation.

"It's long overdue but as the largest school board in Canada, we have a responsibility to normalize and equalize access to menstrual products in our schools to create better learning environments for our students."

Gill and TDSB Trustee Stephanie Donaldson have been working long and hard on this motion, facing funding obstacles along the way."It's important to note that in light of the extensive education budget reductions from the provincial government this year, we knew we had to secure funding through other partnerships and means. This was probably the most stressful part - not knowing whether or not we had this secured," Gill tells Narcity.

When the motion had passed, celebrations were quickly followed by the desire to keep working, Gill says."[We felt] a huge sigh of relief, followed by an immediate injection of motivation to continue the important work towards crushing the barriers faced by women."

Donaldson's tweet announcing this victory inspired many grateful reactions.

These free period products will be available at the start of the 2019-20 school year and will come at no cost to the board.

TDSB follows in the footsteps of school boards in Waterloo and B.C., which announced they would also be providing free menstrual products earlier this year.

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