Calgary’s Free. Period. pilot lacks the funds to expand their program

Some women go to public facilities like the Women's Center of Calgary specifically for menstrual hygiene products, because they can't get them anywhere else. PHOTO COURTESY: Adobe Express

Lack of funding is preventing the City from expanding a program to distribute free menstrual hygiene products.

May 28 marked Menstrual Hygiene Day, a day of awareness about menstruation and safe and hygienic health practices for girls. It’s also about breaking the stigma around the topic.

In September of 2021, the City of Calgary, in partnership with the Calgary Public Library and Youth Central’s Mayor’s Youth Council, launched the Free. Period. pilot project.

Through this pilot, free pads and tampons are available at different facilities around the city.

Bo Masterson, executive director of the Women’s Centre of Calgary said it’s an incredibly important project.

“Feminine hygiene products are not necessarily considered a basic need, but for us, it is completely a basic need,” Masterson said.

“Women can’t go without period products, period.”

Iliana Cutten, a member of Youth Central’s Mayor’s Youth Council, said there’s a gap in the distribution of menstrual hygiene products. Particularly for those who need them, but are unable to access them. Still, the program lacks the funding to expand to more city facilities.

“We currently have our eyes set on expanding this program towards CBE, but it’s an issue of funding and finding that funding post-COVID,” said Cutten.

“We’re doing our best to try and find that funding and the resources that we need to be able to make those connections and put the dispensers in more public facilities, possibly, educational facilities.”

Expansion possible with federal funds

Since September 2021, more than 25,000 menstrual hygiene products have been distributed. The rise in Calgary Public Library use, as well as increased traffic to City of Calgary facilities, has contributed to the volume of response.

The Women’s Center of Calgary said their main source of access to these products is through donations. Without an initiative like the Free. Period. pilot project, there could be a lack of opportunity for women in need to access menstrual hygiene products.

Local organizations are looking forward to the expansion of the Free. Period. pilot project, as it will increase the amount of product that can be supplied.

“The federal government just announced that they have set aside $25 million for a national menstrual equity pilot program. We’re really excited to possibly collaborate with that program and see if we can access those funds,” said Cutten.

Until then, dispensers are available at The Alberta Trade Centre, the Municipal Building, Village Square Leisure Centre, and the Central Library. The Calgary Public Library has expanded to include four additional locations: Forest Lawn, Judith Umbach Library, Louise Riley Library, Saddletowne Library, and the Shawnessy Library.

“Women can and always will be welcome at the women’s center to come and get period products,” said Masterson.

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