Mississauga to provide free menstrual products in facilities

Libraries, community centres, and other city-run facilities in Mississauga will soon be stocked with free menstrual products. Erica Natividad on why some say this initiative is long overdue.

By Erica Natividad and Meredith Bond

The City of Mississauga will be soon be providing free menstrual products in their community facilities, aiming to provide period products to those who may not be able to afford them.

Council passed the initative on Wednesday and will start stocking libraries and community centres with tampons and pads free of charge beginning over the next several months.

Director of Recreation Kristina Zietsma tells CityNews they started the process back in 2020, but it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We saw this as an important opportunity to help remove barriers and providing convenient access to basic essential products. And we’ve heard from the community on several occasions of the importance of this service as well,” said Zietsma.

She said it provides accessibility to all people in their facilities and provides the opportunity to those who may have not have the financial means to afford menstrual products.

It’s expected to cost $165,000 per year to run, but Zietsma says it will not have any impact on the budget in 2022.

Leanne Sinclair, co-leader of the Dufferin-Peel chapter of Period Purse, called it a very exciting day for them as they were one of multiple community groups who convinced city officials to make the change.

Period Purse is a not-for-profit aiming to provide menstrual equality and donates period products to shelters and industry programs through blitzes twice a year.

“It’s a great first start because it makes them available for those in need. So they have they have access to them,” said Sinclair. “There’s still more work that’s needed to be done in the shelter system. I know we run blitzes twice a year and we’re able to support about 25 per cent of the needs so there’s definitely more need out there.”

Sinclair added what is even more important is that it starts a conversation around destigmatizing period products.

“The more people talk about it, I think the less shame there is and the less uncomfortable people will feel,” said Sinclair.

“If women and menstruators, if they don’t have product, they can’t go to work. They can’t go to school, they can’t contribute to society. So that’s one of the things we need to aim for, getting rid of the shame and the stigma around periods. We need to talk about it, and we need to get products out there for people to have access,” added Sinclair.

Period poverty, Sinclair said, is a challenging issue and some women are forced to choose between having access to menstrual products and other basic needs.

“If you’re having to decide between purchasing menstrual products or feeding yourself, that’s just not a fair position to be in. So for me the ability to provide that access for what is truly a basic need is no different then having toilet paper in the facility,” added Zietsma.

The products will be provided in dispensers that are already in most facilities, but you will no longer have to pay for them.

When asked if there are any concerns over someone potentially taking all the supplies, Zietsma said, “If there is theft, it’s likely that there’s an individual who needs that product. Our hope is that we have individuals who will use products when they need them.”

She adds there will be staff monitoring their usage to ensure there is an adequate supply.

The city’s plan is to be in 100 facilities by the Fall.

Mississauga is one of several jurisdictions who have made period products free of charge in the last year.

Last October, Ontario’s education minister announced that the province would provide free menstrual products to public schools and just last month, students at the post-secondary level made a major push to have their institutions offer the same.

Currently, the city of Toronto does not have a similar initiative; however, a spokesperson for Toronto Public Libraries confirms they are planning a small pilot program to distribute menstrual products at certain branches later this spring.

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