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08/01/2018 17:22 EDT | Updated 08/02/2018 07:53 EDT

Halifax's Mount Saint Vincent University Has Started Giving Away Menstrual Products

"The way we view menstrual health products is no different than toilet paper or paper towel."

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Woman holding menstrual tampon and pad.

HALIFAX — A Halifax university has become the first in Nova Scotia to offer its students free menstrual products, part of a national movement that has been gaining steam among student leaders.

Nikki Jamieson, president of the Mount Saint Vincent University Students' Union, said the products will be available at pickup locations across campus, and signs about where the products can be found will be posted in the women's, men's and gender neutral washrooms.

"Not all folks that menstruate are female identifying. There are trans students, non-binary students and gender non-conforming students that would also need access to menstrual health products that wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable walking into, say, a female-only washroom," said Jamieson in an interview.

"We want to make sure we can accommodate everybody and that everybody feels comfortable using the products they need."

'Menstruation is not a lifestyle choice'

Jamieson said it's a win for the union, part of a growing number of student groups lobbying their university administrations to fund menstrual products. She hopes more institutions follow suit, including hospitals, businesses and public institutions.

"It's kind of a catch-22 though because it's 2018... I kind of feel like we already should have been here," she said.

"The way we view menstrual health products is no different than toilet paper or paper towel. Menstruating bodies should not have to go out of their way to ask for these products that they essentially need. I think it's important to note that menstruation is not a lifestyle choice. People just menstruate — it's a bodily function."

Jamieson said the students' union will continue to push to have the products available inside all campus washrooms.

'Menstrual equity'

The "menstrual equity" movement has been gaining steam across Canada including in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Halifax.

The University of Calgary offers free pads and tampons through its students' union, while Ottawa's Carleton University offers the products through its women's centre.

Over the past academic year, Toronto's Centennial College has been resetting the coin-operated dispensers in campus restrooms to provide pads and sanitary napkins free of charge, rather than the standard 25-cent fee — part of its "Free the Tampon" project.

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At University of King's College in Halifax, a local sexual health centre supplies menstrual hygiene products that are free for students to pick up outside student union offices.

King's Students' Union president Lianne Xiao said in a news release that the change at Mount Saint Vincent was encouraging.

"We're hoping our administration follows suit in providing and funding menstrual health products at King's to invest in women, non-binary, trans, and gender non-conforming students." said Xiao.

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