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Ending period shame through education

Project RED stickers drawn by Lucy Wu.

By the students of Project RED, Norma Rose Point School, Vancouver


In 2019, the Ministry of Education in BC announced that all schools would be responsible for providing free, accessible period products to students. Schools are now stocked with pads and tampons for students; however, accessing them is not always barrier-free. For example, sometimes period products are only stored in girls’ washrooms. This means people who menstruate and use a different washroom in the school cannot access them. In some places, students have to ask an adult in the school for period products. This forces students to publicly announce that they have a period. For folks who are non-binary or trans, announcing that they have a period may not feel safe or comfortable. And considering the shame and stigma that is still associated with periods in our society, many girls also don’t want to be forced to announce their period to access period products.


We are a group of Grade 7 kids from Norma Rose Point School who want to normalize periods in schools and make sure all kids can comfortably and easily access period products when they need them.


Our club started out when some of us started to get our periods or felt anxious about getting our periods. Holly Johnston, a supervision aid at our school, encouraged us to talk about periods because they’re not something to be ashamed of. Those of us who had already begun to menstruate talked about our experience in our period club, and those of us who had not yet had a period listened and asked questions so we could feel calm, informed, and empowered when we did get our periods.

The students of Project RED. Sunjum Jhaj photos.

As we talked about periods, we realized that many of us did not feel fully informed about periods and period products. We had questions about different products available to manage periods; we wanted to learn more about what is considered a normal period and what might be concerning during a period; and we wanted to be able to talk about all of these things without feeling ashamed.


By talking about periods more regularly, and validating each other’s experiences and worries, we all began to feel more comfortable. Before we began talking about periods regularly at school, many of us were uncomfortable bringing up the topic at home with our parents or siblings. Now, period conversations are much more comfortable at home, which makes it easier to tell our parents what we need and how we’re feeling when we have our periods.


We want other kids to feel comfortable talking about periods too, so we started Project RED to educate other students at our school. It’s important that everyone be informed about periods because it helps people who will menstruate feel confident and prepared, and it shows people who will not menstruate how to support people who do menstruate.

“I fully support Project RED within the school system as a parent whose daughter is a part of the club. The empowerment these kids feel is astounding; the stigma attached to periods is diminishing and the kids don’t feel uncomfortable expressing themselves and asking questions. Many parents don’t teach their children these things or the bare minimum is taught, leaving kids with so many questions and concerns around periods. I hope this continues and grows throughout Vancouver and beyond, so that everyone can be a part of this amazing project.” – Melanie Hidber, parent of a Project RED student


Education is also an important part of our other goal: to make sure all students can access period products discreetly and without shame in all bathrooms. If people know about period products and the stigma around periods is eliminated, there is less chance that people will be disrespectful or misuse the products in the bathrooms.


We planned presentations in the intermediate classes at our school to talk about periods and period products. We also hosted an event in our school foyer where we created a poster board about periods and answered other students’ questions about periods and period products. And to further educate students, we raised money to donate to our school library to purchase books about periods.


Now, we’re working on starting a pilot project to have pads-on-a-roll installed in every bathroom stall in the school. The pads-on-a-roll work like toilet paper: they are pads that wrap around a roll that is attached to the wall. This allows people to access pads inside the stall and avoid having to announce they have their period. We also plan to post information in the stalls on how to use the pads appropriately. Having pads available inside the stall is especially important for the safety of non-binary and trans folks.


In our period club, we’ve learned that people who menstruate sometimes miss school because they are not able to access period products in a safe and comfortable way. Having pads available in all bathroom stalls can help make sure students are not missing school because of an entirely preventable reason.


We are planning to track the usage of period products provided by the school and present the data to the school board so other schools can also implement pads-on-a-roll inside the stalls.

Project RED art.

Our message to all the teachers out there is to normalize periods and not shy away from conversations about periods. Remember that periods aren’t dirty or gross. There are positives to having a period, like knowing you’re healthy and not pregnant. Students will bleed through their clothes. They will need to sit out of certain activities if they have cramps. And they will have questions that they might be afraid to ask. If periods are talked about more often, students will be more comfortable and feel empowered.


The period club created a bonded community of people who menstruate, people who will menstruate, and people who want to learn how to support people who menstruate. We’re so happy we got to work with Holly as a mentor who helped us take action in our school. Holly made the whole club feel normal. We’re glad we had an opportunity to feel empowered about our periods and share that power with others.


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