From left: Student Trustees Zachary Garbaty, la'teieka:nereh Doxtader-Swamp and Ava Burtis.


Grand Erie Launches Menstrual Equity Campaign in Schools Across District

TUESDAY, OCT. 26, 2021

Washrooms across Grand Erie will soon include menstrual products free of charge as part of the student-led ME (menstrual equity) initiative to reduce barriers to access and increase awareness of the needs and well-being of trans and non-binary students.

basketpsd-smal.jpg"Accessing menstrual products is difficult for students who can’t afford them, and the potential of having to out one’s gender identity is also a barrier to menstrual equity," said Lisa Munro, Superintendent of Education, who is overseeing the roll-out of the program to all Grand Erie schools. "No student should have their learning or well-being disrupted because they can’t access products."

While the Ministry of Education recently announced a strategy for enhanced student access to free menstrual products in Ontario schools, work was already underway in Grand Erie. Student trustees led an advocacy and outreach effort last year, bringing a report to the Board of Trustees which received approval last December. Several Grand Erie secondary schools already have menstrual-equity programs in place, but the new board-wide ME campaign will include all elementary and secondary schools this fall.

"The chance to advocate for this specific issue at the board level is the reason I became a student trustee, and I couldn't be more excited to see the campaign launched this fall," said Ava Burtis, who, along with fellow 2020-21 student trustees Zachary Garbaty and la'teieka:nereh Doxtader-Swamp, was instrumental in leading the initiative and ensuring that student voice was front and center in its development. "I'm happy that my work on this initiative has helped it progress, but more than that, I am proud of the school board, and I am proud of the dedication of the students within it who have been passionate about the fight to end period poverty."

Burtis, now a Western University student, along with student trustees last year formed a larger working group of students from across Grand Erie, conducting a survey to determine how widespread the need was. Survey results showed overwhelming support for a menstrual-equity initiative. They also revealed that a majority of menstruating students experienced disruptions to their school day - missing sports and extracurriculars or having to go home - because they lacked access to products. The findings drove the campaign and spurred greater support for reducing barriers.

Grand Erie Director of Education JoAnna Roberto worked with Burtis and the other student trustees on their initiative.

“I am so proud of the energy and passion of this team of Grand Erie students, and their commitment to an important issue to support the well-being of their peers,” said Roberto. “Our menstrual equity campaign is a testament to the great things that can happen when youth have a voice and an opportunity to affect change.”

To launch the initiative, baskets containing menstrual products are being delivered to each school this week as Grand Erie's Facility Services team works to complete installation of dispensers and retrofitting of existing dispensers. Products will be available in gender-neutral, accessible washrooms in each school initially and will expand to include female-identified washrooms. Schools will track inventory and order new products as needed throughout the school year, funded partially by the province.

The ME campaign is supported by Grand Erie's multi-year strategic plan which includes a mission to build a culture of well-being and belonging. By providing barrier-free access to period care, the campaign aims to address long-standing inequities and enhance student well-being and belonging.

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