Province to provide free feminine health products to schools and shelters

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald (L to R) MLA Jim Lemaigre, Catholic board chair Suzanne Stubbs, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Laura Ross and Priscilla Luna of Shoppers Drug Mart. On Monday at Ecole St. Mary High School's Library the province announced that more than three million menstrual products are on their way to schools and emergency shelters.

The provincial government has committed to delivering more than three million menstrual products to schools and emergency shelters in partnership with the Shopper’s Foundation for Women’s Health.

Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Laura Ross made the announcement at the Ecole St. Mary High School Library on Monday.

Ross said each shipment will be tailored to the divisions. The initiative involves work from the Ministries of Education, Justice and SaskBuilds, who provided storage.

“We were very grateful,” Ross said. “It also (brought) challenges, but good challenges with Sask Builds and then coordinating with the school boards to ensure that the appropriate schools were being selected to be receiving the products again depending on the size of the school,” Ross said.

Ross was joined by MLAs Alana Ross and Jim Lemaigre, as well as representatives from Shoppers Drug Mart and the Prince Albert Catholic School Division. Alana Ross acted as emcee and Lemaigre made a speech on the importance of the initiative to his northern riding.

MLA Ross was happy to have the announcement made in Prince Albert.

“It’s amazing to be recognized for the need that we have in our area,” she said.

“It’ll provide such an improvement in quality of life for so many young girls and I just can’t be happier that the decision was made to make the announcement here.”

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Prince Albert Catholic School Division board chair Suzanne Stubbs was one of the speakers on Monday at Ecole St. Mary High School’s Library as the province announced that more than three million menstrual products are on their way to schools and emergency shelters.

The shipments will go directly to school divisions who will determine the schools that will receive the products in their area, with the focus on supporting students who face financial barriers.

Minister Ross said that they are working through logistics with school divisions and shelters.

“This is a dream,” she said. “It’s a dream for a lot of women and girls that really were suffering from not having enough product.”

Minister Ross has been an advocate for this partnership, which was initially announced earlier this year.

“This is a good day,” she said. “This is our first shipment out to a school. It’s pretty exciting day for us … and like I said, this took a lot of work being able to work very closely with Shoppers to ensure that we had put together the right kind of program for this province.”

Ecole St. Mary was the first place in the province to receive a shipment. Prince Albert Catholic Division board chair Suzanne Stubbs was proud to have the announcement made at a school in the division.

“I’m very happy that they decided to ask us to be the first school to put the presentation out on this,” Stubbs said,

“I was a graduate from the school. All my kids have come to the school and I’m telling you, this is something that, even back in my days, would have been a wonderful thing.

“I am so happy that the ministry, the government and Shoppers Drug Mart have combined together to provide such a wonderful product.”

Stubbs said that there are still some logistics to finalize in the division for distributing product, but each school will have products available.

Also on hand were administrative staff from Ecole St. Mary, Ecole St. Anne School, St. Francis School, St. John Community School, Ecole Holy Cross, St. Michael Community School and St. Catherine Catholic School.

In addition to schools, 16 emergency shelters for women fleeing domestic violence will also receive the free products for individuals in their shelters.

“In a crisis situation, women often come to shelters with nothing more than the clothes on their back,” PATHS Executive Director Jo-Anne Dusel said in a release. “They may not have access to funds to purchase needed sanitary products or feel safe to leave the shelter to purchase supplies. This donation will assist shelters in providing these necessary items and help women survivors rebuild their lives with dignity.”

Pharmacy Operations and Transformation with Shoppers Drug Mart Senior Vice President Priscilla Luna said programs like this align with the Shoppers Foundation for Women’s Health vision, which aims to provide equitable access to women’s health, awareness around women’s health, and research.

“We do lots of support in those areas as well, so providing access is one, awareness of the inequity that exists, and that research it’s another,” Luna said.

Led by the Status of Women Office, the project is a partnership between the Saskatchewan Government and Shoppers Foundation for Women’s Health with support from Procter & Gamble.

The announcement is part of a larger commitment from Shoppers to provide 12 million menstrual products over the next three years.

“The province of Saskatchewan really values this relationship, it shows how private companies and foundations and the government can work together,” Minister Ross said.

She also noted that PST was removed from feminine hygiene products.

“This is the next big step to ensuring that women who are maybe financially challenged and girls who are financially challenged have access to feminine hygiene products,” Ross said.

For more than a decade, Shoppers Drug Mart has supported women’s health charities across Canada. Shoppers Foundation for Women’s Health aims to build on this legacy by reducing the health inequities women face and by supporting initiatives focused on promoting menstrual equity such as: product donations, making period product dispensers available to homeless women, and strategic collaborations with partners like Moon Time Sisters and The Period Purse.