The Manitoba Government partnering with Shopper's Drug Mart has inspired a new pilot project for the city of Winnipeg to offer free menstrual products for a year.
Earlier this year, Point Douglas City Councillor, Vivian Santos, moved a motion at a property and planning committee meeting regarding the total cost of offering free menstrual products in all city civic buildings, including libraries, community centres, recreational centres and pools. The pilot project has eight locations selected to receive new product dispensers and free menstruation products.
Millennium Library, Fort Rouge Leisure Centre, Seven Oaks Pool, Freight House Recreation Centre/Central Community Centre, Elmwood Kildonan Pool, Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre, Margaret Grant Pool, and Westdale Community Centre.
"So, the Province of Manitoba, when they brought it up, they wanted to put it into schools," says Santos. "I got that idea from like, how come are we not, as the city of Winnipeg, participating in this? I was looking around and noticed that we weren't even providing free menstrual products in our own civic facilities. So, I brought the motion forward..."
Currently, the costs of this pilot project are coming from the operating costs as a city service. It is expected that approximately $58,000 will be the total cost by the end of the 12-month pilot project. Santos says she will continue to advocate for the continuous provision of menstrual products and even hopes to partner with another organization that's able to provide these products for free, much like the agreement between the Manitoba Government and Shopper's Drug Mart.
Santos says that the pilot project will give an insight into what it will look like for the barriers that menstruating people experience to be knocked down. It will provide the opportunity for young girls especially to not feel ashamed of something that is biologically natural.
"The inability to afford menstrual products is actually a big concern, not only here in Winnipeg, but countrywide, like across Canada. This program would at least start removing some of the barriers that women and girls face today. So, if you're a young lady that wants to participate in swimming lessons and all of a sudden you're starting to menstruate, well then you're missing out on recreational programming."
The eight locations chosen as the pilot project's free menstruation product recipients are all located within areas of the city that are underserved and have higher poverty rates. Santos says it is her goal to for all people in all areas of Winnipeg to have access to free menstrual products.
Santos says that it is likely the pilot project will not reach the budget total of $58,000, meaning that it could prove the city could be saving more money than it initially believed. She continues to say that if that does happen, she will advocate for more locations to present free menstrual products to the public.