The City of Hamilton has launched a pilot project to provide free menstrual products in the washrooms of five recreation centres.
Hamilton city council voted on Wednesday to spend $121,000 on the project, which was put forth by Grace Mater, Director, of Children’s Services and Neighbourhood Development.
The 12-month pilot program will make use of both universal and targeted approaches to distribution.
The universal approach is making the products available in the five recreation centres and the targeted approach is a partnership with Hamilton Food Share and local food banks to distribute menstrual products through Food Share’s existing network. The city will fund the purchase of the products.
“Access to menstrual products is essential for health, well-being, and full participation in society. Lack of access to menstrual products due to financial constraints is a health equity issue affecting girls, women and persons who menstruate,” Mater said in a statement to Daily Hive.
“The Menstrual Products Pilot Project is an example of the City’s recognition that all Hamilton residents deserve the opportunity to reach their full health potential without disadvantage due to social determinants of health, and supports the City in achieving its vision to the be the best place to raise a child and age successfully.”
Around $500 has been allocated to each recreation centre per month for purchasing the items, around $6,000 per centre annually. The products will be available in baskets or bins in 18 washrooms. Monitoring and restocking will be done by custodial staff, according to the motion.
The pilot project is based on recommendations from FemCare Community Health Initiative — a nonprofit providing menstrual hygiene products and information to all populations in need.
“I do support this motion being passed and think it’s a step in the right direction,” Halima Al-Hatimy, Hamilton-based founder of FemCare, told Daily Hive.
But for Al-Hatimy, the motion does not address the overall goal of ending period poverty.
“We look at all barriers for access to proper menstrual hygiene which includes access to accurate information about menstrual health as well as clothing and sanitation facilities. This pilot just scratches the surface of that.”
Femcare has an ongoing history of bringing this issue to city council.
On December 10, 2018, a delegation by FemCare requested that Hamilton fund menstrual hygiene products to disenfranchised women.
The Board of Health (BOH) motion directed staff to review the “cost and implementation of providing shelters; drop-in centres; respite centres; others working with homeless, street-involved, low-income girls, and transgender individuals to free menstrual hygiene products,” and report on the feasibility of implementing the program.
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On May 22, 2019, council directed staff to explore the likelihood of providing menstrual products (pads and tampons) to those with financial need for assistance and report back to the Emergency and Community Services Committee.
The goal was to outline specific target populations, location and distribution options, costs, potential sponsors, community and organizational partners and an evaluation plan for a 12-month pilot project.
The FemCare founder said that there is a greater need to have more partnerships with nonprofits, school boards, libraries, and other city initiatives to properly tackle the issue head on.
“We want to partner with everyone to make sure these products are easily accessible,” Al-Hatimy said.
The motion does state that two Hamilton school boards recognize the importance of this issue and are looking into ways to support students with menstrual products, but there is currently no coordinated approach. The city is also still reportedly looking into more community initiative partnerships.
While FemCare is celebrating five years since they began, Al-Hamity acknowledges that implementing change at a policy level is still in the “infant stages” of the conversation.
“We have to ensure that we are making decisions based on evidence and our values as a society. We should be keeping the cause of the mission at the forefront of every conversation that we have,” Al-Hamity said.