By: Claire Adams
Scotland has become the first country in the world to provide free and universal access to period products. The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, passed unanimously in its final stage in the Scottish Parliament on November 24, 2020. The bill requires local authorities to ensure that period products are available free of charge to anyone who needs them. The Bill was spearheaded by Monica Lennon, Member of Scottish Parliament, who sought to tackle so-called period poverty.
Period poverty is when people who need period products struggle to afford them. This can have negative impacts on health, wellbeing and educational attainment. Schools, colleges and universities were already providing access to period products in Scotland, as were some local authorities. But the introduction of the Bill has now enshrined universal access to period products in law throughout the nation.
Lennon tweeted out her thanks to all who had supported “period dignity”, and said that the Bill was “a signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved.”
Progress in Ending Period Poverty in Canada
Locally, there have been a number of campaigns and measures to help end period poverty and to destigmatize menstruation in British Columbia. In April 2019, the provincial B.C. government issued a ministerial order requiring all B.C. public schools to provide free period products in their bathrooms by the end of the year. B.C. was the province the first in Canada to do so.
B.C. is also seeing progress at the municipal level. The City of Coquitlam, following a successful four month pilot campaign, has committed to a full roll-out of free menstrual products in all washrooms in Coquitlam park, pool and civic facilities by 2021. The City of Vancouver offers free tampons and pads in three temporary washrooms installed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with The Tyee, Councillor Rebecca Bligh said of the initiative: “It’s such an important equity issue, it’s a safety issue, it’s an issue about destigmatization and really supporting vulnerable folks who needed that type of support, especially during the COVID pandemic and beyond.”
The United Way’s Period Promise campaign has also had a huge impact in BC. In 2019 the group collected approximately 500,000 period products to distribute to those who needed them. Through their Period Promise Policy Agreement, United Way has encouraged more than twenty organizations, including the City of Victoria and Vancity, to commit to providing free tampons and pads to their staff and guests.
Women Transforming Cities applauds these efforts to end period poverty’s inequitable impacts on women, girls and everyone who menstruates. We recognize Scotland’s new legislation as a Wise Practice that we hope to see emulated throughout the world in the coming months and years.