FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has provided more than $115,000 to school districts to provide free menstrual hygiene products to students throughout the school year through a new program called Never be caught off guard.

“All students deserve to be able to focus on their learning, instead of worrying about how they will be able to access the essentials,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy. “By providing menstrual hygiene products, schools are fostering learning environments that are inclusive, promote equity and respect human rights. Hopefully, this project can help reduce the impact on academics and help reduce stigma and social or emotional challenges.”

A pilot project in Anglophone School District West provided free menstrual hygiene products to two high schools throughout the 2018-19 school year. The project was a partnership between the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Horizon Health Network. It explored whether making menstrual hygiene products accessible in school washrooms would have positive social-emotional and learning benefits for students.

Students surveyed as part of the project reported experiencing a decrease in embarrassment, anxiety and stress because they knew that pads and tampons were accessible at school and they would not need to ask for them. As a result, they reported feeling better able to focus on learning.

“Availability of supplies in all washrooms takes the worry away from accidents and unexpected situations. It has also taken an economic stressor away from students and has leveled the playing field of accessibility and cleanliness,” said Fredericton High School Principal Stephanie Underhill Tomilson. “The more we break down the stigma of menstruation, the easier it will become to address the inequalities of poverty and hygiene surrounding these products.”

The hygiene products will be available in female and gender-neutral washrooms and locker rooms in schools with Grade 6-12 students, eliminating the need for students to request these products from school administration.