City ponders free menstrual products in public facilities

The city-owned Progressive Auto Sales Arena.

Tara Jeffrey

When Michelle Parks learned London is preparing to stock free menstrual products in public facilities, the Sarnia woman asked, ‘Why not here?’

She began researching initiatives like Tampon Tuesday — an event launched a decade ago in London that invites participants to an evening of food, drink and networking. Admission is a box of menstrual products for local foodbanks.

Then she reached out to the Inn of the Good Shepherd and learned menstrual products are among the most requested items at the food bank, yet rarely donated.

“That’s when I said, ‘I’m going to start something,’” Parks said.

She posted on Facebook looking for help and responses poured in.

“Everyone wanted to help; it’s come a long way in a short period of time.”

Not only has Parks helped launch Sarnia’s first Tampon Tuesday event — slated for May 28 at The Workplace Group — she’s challenging local businesses to collect donations for the Inn.

She’s also asked Sarnia city council to follow London’s move and provide free tampons and pads in public facilities.

“I’ve learned so much over the last couple of months,” said Parks. “I’ve never had to think about where the money is going to come from to buy menstrual products, but there’s so many women who have to choose between feeding their family and buying these products.

After Parks made her case to council last week, Coun. Brian White successfully requested a staff report on the cost of providing free menstrual products.

“This is an equity and human rights issue,” White said.

The proposal drew a mixed reaction.

“The problem I have with all this is, all it talks about is giving away stuff for free,” said Coun. Terry Burrell, who supported the call for a report but stressed concern that, “if things are free, people treat them like they’re free.”

Coun. Margaret Bird was opposed. “I’m sure the Sarnia citizens would rather see their tax dollars going to much more urgent things,” she said.

The Inn’s operations manager hopes the city adopts the policy.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Adelle Richards. “When you really think about it, you buy the toilet paper to put in your buildings, which is a necessity of life. Well, so are menstrual products.”

Donations of menstrual products are scarce but the demand is high, she said. The food bank regularly donates to groups like The Hub, the Women’s Interval Home and Bluewater Health, she said.

“We get calls saying, ‘We have nothing for these women.’ We do our best to distribute to other agencies… but it’s all about perception. People see ‘food bank’ and they don’t think about donating hygiene products.”

She also hopes Tampon Tuesday becomes a regular event.

“This isn’t rocket science. It isn’t something that needs a lot of discussion,” she added. “It’s about basic human rights.”

 

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Tampon Tuesday

WHERE: The Workplace Group, (St. Clair Corporate Centre, Sarnia).

WHEN: May 28, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

DETAILS: Guest speaker Mandi Fields, original founder; admission is one box of menstrual products