New Westminster could become the first city in the province to offer free tampons and pads in school washrooms, following a vote by the school board Tuesday night.

A motion going before the board recommends menstrual products be provided for free on a district-wide basis beginning this September.

"I don't anticipate anything but a 'yes,'" said school board chair Mark Gifford. "I think it's a question of access and gender equity for female students and staff across the province."

The motion was prompted by Vancouver resident and Douglas College professor Selina Tribe, who began pushing for improved access to free menstrual products after discovering her child's elementary school didn't provide anything in the washrooms.

"For women, these items are as essential as toilet paper." said Tribe.

She ended up purchasing a dispenser for the school, where kids can access tampons and pads for free. She said expecting students to go to the office to ask for products isn't good enough.

"My position is we need those products in the bathroom and making them go to the office is causing undue delay." Tribe adds making them free eliminates barriers caused by poverty and stigma.

The United Way of the Lower Mainland also supports the initiative.

In March, the organization will launch its own campaign, Period Promise, which will collect donations of products and funds.

"We're looking at getting everybody access to product everywhere in the community," said Neal Adolph with the United Way, adding the organization will also try to get other groups and workplaces on board with offering pads and tampons for free

The New Westminster School Board will also vote on whether to raise the issue at the British Columbia School Trustees Association annual general meeting, and ask the province to consider providing funding for schools across B.C. to do the same.

Education Minister Rob Fleming called it a great initiative, but stopped short of making any commitments.

"We'll wait and see what New Westminster has done and I'm sure that they're getting inquiries from some other districts right now about how they manage to create that program," he said.

The school board meeting gets underway at 7:30 p.m.